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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, August 21, 2016

The fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline dominated Indian country headlines during the week leading up to August 21, 2016.
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The Dakota Access pipeline opposition escalated to epic proportions and dominated the headlines in Indian country this past week, while election issues and some legal action on the Gold King Mine spill also made waves.

NO ACCESS: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe stood its ground against the Dakota Access oil pipeline across its Treaty lands, and droves of people arrived to support them. They were there to protect the water—the $3.8 billion, 1,178-mile-long pipeline would cross under the Missouri River as well as traverse about 200 water crossings in total—and, led by members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Hunkpapa Oyate), they blocked an access point for construction attempting to conduct preliminary field survey work. They also succeeded in getting the work halted near the reservation until the parties appear in court on August 24, but not before the arrest of a few dozen people, including Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II. No sooner had Archambault been released than he was slapped with a lawsuit by Dakota Access LLC for his role in obstructing construction. Archambault called for peace and nonviolence, and asked that President Barack Obama step in, a day after a federal district court in North Dakota granted a temporary restraining order against those it deemed were interfering with the work. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the International Indian Treaty Council also appealed to United Nations human rights experts to intervene

“We specifically request that the United States Government impose an immediate moratorium on all pipeline construction until the Treaty Rights and Human Rights of the Standing Rock Tribe can be ensured and their free, prior and informed consent is obtained,” Chairman Dave Archambault and the Treaty Council said in their appeal to top U.N. human rights officials. Media coverage of the events included a comprehensive report from Democracy Now!

ELECTION PROGRESS: Washington voters are one step away from electing another Native American to the state Legislature and sending the former chairman of the Colville Tribes to the U.S. House of Representatives. Sharlaine LaClair, executive director of the Lummi Ventures economic development program and a Lummi Nation planning commissioner, advanced to the general election in the race for state House of Representatives from the 42nd District. If elected, she will be one of four Native Americans in the Washington Legislature. East of the Cascades, former Colville Tribes chairman Joe Pakootas advanced to the general election in the race for U.S. House from the 5th Congressional District. If Pakootas is elected, he will be one of three Native Americans in the U.S. House of Representatives and the first from Washington state since Floyd Hicks, Paiute-Shoshone, in 1965-1977.

SEEKING EQUAL VOTING RIGHTS: Three Nevada Paiute tribes—Pyramid Lake, Yerington and Walker River—asked their respective counties and the state’s secretary of state for equal access to the vote. Until now, tribal members have had very limited opportunities to cast a ballot in national elections, say the chairpersons for those tribes.

DON’T DATE YOURSELF: If you were born before 1970, you pre-date nine Native civil rights.

BUSINESS GROWTH: The Ho-Chunk Nation plans to simultaneously upgrade its three Ho-Chunk Gaming (HCG) casinos—Wisconsin Dells, Black River Falls and Wittenberg—to the tune of $153 million.

GETTING ITS DUE: The 78-acre sacred X’unáxi (Indian Point) in Juneau has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, making it the first traditional cultural property in Southeast Alaska to be placed on the register.

TAKING THE FEDS TO COURT: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is among several defendants named in a lawsuit brought by the Navajo Nation alleging that the Gold King Mine spill in August 2015 could have been prevented, and seeking damages.

ART 1, BOARDING SCHOOL 0: Artists Celeste Pedri-Spade and Leanna Marshall, two working mothers and artists, discovered they both were developing art linked to family and community history. They merged their work into a two-month-long exhibition at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery that runs through early September.