From the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to the prayer camps, reaction streamed in after the Obama administration stepped in to temporarily halt construction on the portion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline that would cross under the Missouri River.
Reactions mirrored the events of Friday September 9: First disappointment at the court decision, then elation as the federal government stepped in to stop, for the moment, construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline under the Missouri River.
NCAI President Brian Cladoosby spoke of Native resiliency and unity after U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg denied an injunction request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to halt construction, a move followed moments later by the administration’s announcement.
“We as Native people have endured many battles, and we still remain,” he said in a statement. “Despite the setback in court today, I’m encouraged by the decision of the Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior to halt construction of the pipeline near Standing Rock’s waters and sacred places, in accordance with its trust responsibility to tribal nations. What I’ve seen in my two visits to Standing Rock is the transformative power Indian Country has when we stand together and speak with one voice to protect our waters, our lands, and our sacred places for future generations. No decision from any court can take away the power of our prayers, our songs, and the collective voice of our peoples. NCAI and all of Indian Country will continue to Stand with Standing Rock.”
Photo: Valerie Taliman
United South & Eastern Tribes (USET) President Brian Patterson expressed disappointment that Boasberg had “erred in his determination” in denying the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s motion but was encouraged by the turn that events had taken.
“We are confident that a reexamination of the decisions leading up to this point will result in the protection of these sacred lands, and we welcome the opportunity to ensure that this never happens again,” Patterson said. “The USET family commends the administration for its swift action to protect Lake Oahe, at least in the short term, and to initiate consultation with Tribal Nations. We will continue to stand in solidarity with our relations across Indian Country in the fight to protect all that is sacred and just. We send prayers for peace and safety to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all who are protesting DAPL."
Other leaders spoke of the Standing Rock Sioux’s aboriginal claim to the land.
“The Standing Rock Sioux are the original inhabitants of what is now North Dakota, and we applaud this administration for recognizing their inalienable right to self-determination of their tribal homelands,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker in a statement. “While we are troubled this situation even reached this level of contention, we are grateful that it is now sparking meaningful conversations never held at this level of government—conversations that actually take into consideration the needs and wishes of tribes when it comes to infrastructure projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
He expressed gratitude to the Obama administration for the move by the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold back on issuing further permits while reexamining previous decisions on the project, while asking Energy Transfer Partners to stop construction for the time being.
“It’s disappointing that a federal court declined to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which may have severe negative impacts on the Standing Rock Sioux’s main water source, ancient burial sites and other sacred areas,” Baker said. “We are grateful this administration, through cooperation with the Department of Justice, Department of the Army and Department of the Interior, have intervened to do what is right in this matter—defend the rights of a sovereign tribal nation to intervene in commercial practices that may harm the Standing Rock people and will most certainly harm the land and sacred sites they have occupied since time immemorial.”
U.S. Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico weighed in, speaking out against the use of dogs and pepper spray against the protectors.
"After the disturbing use of violence to control protesters in North Dakota, I'm pleased that the administration has halted part of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and committed to deploy federal resources to ensure Tribal members may exercise their free speech rights,” the Democratic senator said in a statement. “I hope the company will honor that request while a reevaluation occurs and commit to respecting the rights of Tribal members and others to peacefully protest. It's unfortunate that it took violence and the endangerment of sacred burial grounds to get to this point.”
Gratitude came from other quarters too, with Miss Indian World, Ta’Sheena, who is Standing Rock Sioux, posting a photo of her standing before the rows of Indian nations’ flags at the camps beside the Missouri and Cannonball rivers, smiling broadly.
“Miss Indian World, Ta'Sheena, wants to thank everyone for their prayers regarding the outcome today for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, her home,” she said on Facebook. “She spent the whole day amongst her People, first at the camp and later in Bismarck. This is a photo taken immediately after reading the intervention of the three Federal agencies in spite of the denial of the injunction by the Federal Judge. She is happy, as her land and water are safe for now. Ta'Sheena wants to thank everyone for their support on behalf of her Nation, Standing Rock.”
Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Miss Indian World, Ta'Sheena, Standing Rock Sioux, thanked everyone for their prayers.
Either way, both events were contrasted and analyzed, given an inspiring spin by ICTMN Editor-at-Large Gyasi Ross.
“Make No Mistake: Today's combination of events (the denial of the Standing Rock's Lakota's request for injunction + the Departments of Justice, the Army, and the Department of the Interior will not allow further construction on federal lands) is an absolute WIN for those who do not want construction of this pipeline to move forward,” he wrote in a statement. “It's a HUGE win because it means that, despite Obama's seeming ignorance on this topic (I don't believe it), this is FIRMLY on the Administration's radar.”
He pointed out that there was no question that the U.S. Army Corps had not followed the law when it granted the previous permits.
“At some point, the Army Corps WILL have to follow federal law,” he said. “The law clearly states that they must consult with affected Native communities. They didn't do that. If it's not at this court, it will be at the next. If not at the next, it will be the Supreme Court. Thank you to Standing Rock for pushing these treaty rights right where they are supposed to be—the supreme law of the land. Every single person that is there in Standing Rock praying, singing, loving each Native people—you are making a difference. Every single person sending some money or raising some money or sharing images and stories, you are making a difference. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise—the reason why we're winning is because of a combination of prayer, shared energy, shared resources and strong legal arguments. All of them count.”