Last week, a heated conflict between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the federal government came to a head: after a district court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act in their construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), three federal agencies blocked further construction of the pipeline within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, a major water source for the tribe.
In light of a long history of the U.S. federal government’s abuse and genocide of Native Americans, this display of solidarity is long overdue. Even so, this concession to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe does not fully compensate for the potential environmental and symbolic damage that DAPL could do to the tribe and their lands.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior released the joint statement after a federal judge ruled that construction could proceed with DAPL, despite the tribe’s claims that the U.S. Army Corps violated three laws in their construction of the project.
The tribe claims that the U.S. Army Corps did not adequately consult the tribe before building the pipeline, as the federal government is legally required to do before all construction projects, due to a history of displacement and destruction of Native American land and property. According to the tribe, the pipeline is being constructed through ancient burial grounds and sacred sites.
In addition, the pipeline is in violation of both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, since, if the pipeline spills into the Missouri River, it could pollute the tribe’s only water supply.
Despite these violations, the federal judge in the court case Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers claimed that the U.S. Army Corps “likely complied” with its obligation to consult the tribe, although he acknowledged the federal government’s “contentious” and “tragic” past dealings with Native American people.
Protests and Future Resistance
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been protesting construction of the pipeline since April, according to The Atlantic, calling themselves “water protectors.” Last week, protests became violent as a private security force released attack dogs on protesters that broke through a fence at the DAPL construction site. Native American tribes and clean energy advocates across the nation have begun to hold protests in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe notes that the Obama Administration’s halt on a portion of the construction is an important victory, but Dave Archambault II, chairman of the tribe, promised to continue the resistance and appeal the federal court’s decision.
“I want to take a moment and reflect on this historic moment in Indian Country,” Archambault stated. “But I know that our work is not done. We need to to permanently protect our sacred sites and our water. There are areas on the construction route that do not fall within federal jurisdiction, so we will continue to fight.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has a right to their land and to clean water. The government should end the sanctioned genocide of Native Americans that has occurred in this nation for centuries and end the construction of DAPL through Sioux lands, respecting their history, their laws, and their attempts to preserve their culture.
Photo: Unity No DAPL Facebook