While Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier sat down with President Barack Obama at a private roundtable in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 25, Morton County, N.D. Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier was calling in police reinforcements from six states to enforce Energy Transfer Partners’ demands that “trespassers” be removed from the path of the pipeline.
Authorities implied they may forcibly remove the water protectors from the new camp, which is on land recently purchased by Dakota Access LLC, the subsidiary that is building the pipeline.
"We have the resources. We could go down there at any time," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said, according to the Associated Press. "We're trying not to."
"We are here to enforce the law as needed,” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said. “It’s private property.”
The so-called trespassers are Lakota citizens and their allies determined to stand their ground to prevent further destruction of burial grounds and cultural sites, and to protect their water supply from the pipeline. As DAPL moves forward with aggressive construction even on weekends and at night, water protectors took the bold action to declare eminent domain over their homelands last week and set up a new camp directly in the pipeline’s path.
What began with prayers and a single tipi alongside Highway 1806 quickly grew to more than a dozen tipis surrounded by tents, buses, cars and hundreds of water protectors. Some are calling it the “1851 Treaty Camp” to acknowledge their Treaty rights.
Across the road is the encroaching pipeline and a heavily militarized police force with armored vehicles, helicopters, planes, ATVs and busloads of officers. Tensions are growing as unarmed citizens worry that police will use unnecessarily harsh tactics.
In recent weeks, nearly 300 unarmed water protectors who were arrested have been subjected to pepper spray, strip-searches, delayed bail, exaggerated charges and physical violence, according to interviews with several who were taken into custody. The ACLU and National Lawyers Guild recently sent attorneys to Standing Rock to help the Red Owl Collective, a team of volunteer lawyers headed by attorney Bruce Ellison, who are representing many of those arrested.
On Wednesday, October 26, civil rights leader and Rainbow PUSH Coalition founder the Rev. Jesse Jackson arrived in Standing Rock to speak out against the multiple human and civil rights violations being perpetrated against water protectors.
Photo: Courtesy KILI Radio
The Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks to water protectors standing against the Dakota Access oil pipeline on Wednesday October 26.
Jackson joined actor/activist Mark Ruffalo and hundreds of water protectors who walked to the new camp near the construction site to pray. Ruffalo had arrived the night before to speak on an anti-DAPL panel with Native activists at the Prairie Knights Casino and Hotel.
Jackson toured the Oceti Sakowin camp and later spoke to the crowd, reminding people that nonviolence is key to winning the battle for justice.
“The tribes of this country have sacrificed a lot so that this great country could be built,” Jackson said. “With promises broken, land stolen, and sacred lands desecrated, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is standing up for their right to clean water. They have lost land for settlers to farm, more land for gold in the Black Hills, and then again even more land for the damn (sic) that was built for flood control and hydro power.
“When will the taking stop? When will we start treating the first peoples of these lands with the respect and honor they deserve?”
The decision to change the pipeline route from north of Bismarck to its current route is “the ripest case of environmental racism I’ve seen in a long time,” Jackson said. “Bismarck residents don’t want their water threatened, so why is it okay for North Dakota to react with guns and tanks when Native Americans ask for the same right?”
Concurrently, consultations on infrastructure and projects such as DAPL are being held by the federal government with tribes to examine the current consultation process and come up with ways to make it more meaningful with tribal input. At a consultation in Seattle earlier this week, several leaders of tribes in Washington State called for an overhaul of the current tribal consultation system and presented a five-point plan for protecting the sacred.
“Tribal nations are forced time and time again to defend that which is sacred to us,” said Lummi Indian Business Council Chairman Tim Ballew II in a statement released after the hearing. “This is the result of a failed process of consultation and flawed policies. We have treaties and promises from the federal government but almost always, we have to go to court and use our resources defending these rights. We urge Obama to overhaul this system and implement our plan.”
Leaders from the Yakama Nation, Lummi Nation, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Spokane Tribe said that five measures should be taken: The U.S. Army Corps must conduct a region-wide Environmental Impact Statement for fossil fuel export plans that explores the “known cumulative impacts of the multitude of individual projects that affect tribes in our region,” the tribal leaders said. Obama must also incorporate language into Executive Order 13007, relating to Indian sacred sites, that references the need for tribes to grant informed consent on infrastructure projects. The Army Corps should delete the controversial Appendix C from its procedure manual, since it does not help the agency meet its requirements for compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), they said.
“Even the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation does not approve of Appendix C as an authorized alternative to its own regulations,” the tribes said in their statement. “It is a flawed approach to protection of cultural resources.”
In addition, new federal legislation is needed that would update the NHPA as well as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) “to make informed consent a necessary component of both of these statutes,” the tribal leaders said. And fifth, they said, Obama must take steps to ensure that meaningful tribal consultation still occurs even when a project is fast-tracked.
“The unprecedented showing of support for Standing Rock by all of Indian Country resulted from the long history of federally approved development affecting tribal lands, waters and sacred places,” said Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Tribe. “Every single Indian nation has a story of federally-approved destruction. This consultation is an opportunity to move the nation-to-nation relationship toward a true partnership and ensure that tribal concerns are addressed in federal permitting processes.”
The listening sessions will be held in cities across the nation through November 21 and tribes are invited to submit written input until November 30, according to the Washington tribal statement.
"The current process of consultation and approval of infrastructure projects is an attack on our sustained existence,” said JoDe Goudy, chairman of the Yakama Nation. “Our ancestors have endured the history of genocide, domination and dehumanization. The only way for the U.S. to prove that it is not currently inciting genocide is to acknowledge that the proposed materialization of these projects is an attack on our very existence and to take action to eliminate such threats.”
Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe Goudy explains treaty rights, the impact of European church doctrine, and the need for a new Executive Order on Free Prior Informed Consent to the Administration. (Photo: Courtesy Chris Stearns)