Not only has the Dakota Access Pipeline been halted, but a local tribe is suing U.S. departments for not handling the planning correctly from the very beginning.
Among the damages being cited by the tribe Ihanktonwan Oyate, member of the Yankton Sioux Nation, are violations of the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Fort Laramie Treaty.
From the very beginning, the tribe says the U.S. government should have sent a delegation to consult with all tribes who may be affected by the pipeline. The tribe says this is their right, as defined by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Among the departments being sued are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The tribe claims that these agencies failed to send the delegation required by the U.N., and that environmental impact studies have been insufficient or nonexistent.
In a 36 page document that summarizes the lawsuit, complaints are made not only about failing to consult with the Native people of the area, but also mentions specific sites that will be traversed by the pipeline that need further investigation. The Yankton Sioux claim there are sacred sites along the path of the pipeline. Some of these sites may need further discovery, including anthropological studies done not only by Western anthropologists, but also by the tribes themselves. These tribes have the right to claim a site as sacred, and ‘sacred’ is not a term easily defined by Western science. These sites follow the James River, the Missouri River, and over 200 other waterways.
Dakota Access LLC maintains that it surveyed these sacred and cultural sites along the 1,178-mile-long pipeline route, but according to the 36 page document, “these surveys were performed by non-local and non-Yankton consultants hired by Dakota Access LLC who, respectfully, do not possess the cultural knowledge to understand the significance of and in some cases even identify sites.”
The document continued, saying of Dakota Access, LLC, “…their actions were arbitrary, capricious, abuses of discretion, and not in accordance with law and must be held unlawful and set aside.”
The Ihanktonwan Oyate tribe is also claiming another broken treaty between Natives and the U.S. government. According to the tribe, the U.S. is in violation of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, which requires “free, prior and informed consent” from Native Peoples on construction or any use affecting their lands.
“The United Nations Declaration reflects what all Native people understand, that our complete world view is based on relationship — relationship with the land, water, and all living things dictates how we conduct ourselves on Mother Earth,” said Faith Spotted Eagle of the Ihanktonwan tribe.
She continued, “Those in power only have relationship with themselves and their sources of power; in this case, how much money they can make,” she said. “It is a sad state of affairs, but we will persevere. I pray for those who destroy sacred sites as there are consequences in the natural world.”
Spokespeople for the tribe emphasize the importance of environmental impact studies not just for their own people, but for all people throughout the country who will be affected by the construction of the pipeline. If the pipeline leaks or breaks, which they have been known to do, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil could pollute a water supply that reaches millions of people and animals.
Hundreds of people from 200 tribes have gathered in North Dakota to engage in direct action against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Native peoples and the entire world are broadcasting this event, calling it historic. The BBC cited it as the largest gathering of American Indians in over 100 years.
There’s no telling how long this lawsuit will be in court, but with a 3.75 billion dollar loan in the air, it’s a safe bet we’ll have a decision sooner rather than later. The outcome of the lawsuit may divert the pipeline off of Native lands, and that means Dakota Access LLC would have to reroute it.
Many Natives and activists think a better outcome would be to scrap the pipeline idea altogether, but according to the government, Dakota Access LLC has every right to construct a pipeline. Perhaps it’s time for us to come together as a nation and restructure the idea of what’s right with regards to the environment.
Many of the laws that regulate corporation’s environmental impact are outdated, and not suited to take us into the modern era. It remains to be seen whether the movement against the Dakota Pipeline is the start of a nationwide reform, or if it will fizzle out after Big Business finds a way to get what it wants.
(Article by Jafari Tishomingo)
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