Yankton Sioux Tribe Business and Claims Committee & the Ihanktonwan Treaty Steering Committee React to North Dakota Governor’s Order to Evacuate Camps

Native News Online photo by Shane McSauby

Campers faced first snowstorm. Native News Online photo by Shane McSauby

Published November 30, 2016

WAGNER, SOUTH DAKOTA –  On Tuesday, the Yankton Sioux Tribe Business and Claims Committee and the Ihanktonwan Treaty Steering Committee issued a joint statement in reaction to North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple’s emergency executive order, saying he does not have jurisdictional rights over the encampment.

Read entire statement below:

JOINT STATEMENT OF THE YANKTON SIOUX TRIBE BUSINESS AND CLAIMS COMMITTEE AND THE IHANKTONWAN TREATY STEERING COMMITTEE

November 29, 2016

The Governor of North Dakota cannot force the removal of our water protectors from their encampment on 1851 Treaty Territory. Yesterday, Governor Jack Dalrymple issued an executive order purporting to “evacuate” all individuals currently residing at the water protector camp on Army Corps of Engineers land just north of the Cannonball River. These individuals have assembled peaceably for the purpose of prayer and protecting the waters of the Missouri River. The land they are assembled on is not state land, and it is not subject to the Governor’s executive order. This land is controlled by the United States, not the state of North Dakota, and it is part of the territory set aside for the Oceti Sakowin (“Great Sioux Nation”) by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty.

The Governor could not be more transparent. Rather than acting in the interest of public safety, as the executive order alleges, the Governor is acting solely for the benefit of Dakota Access. The encampment the Governor seeks to remove is focused on preventing the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing and ultimately spilling into the Missouri River. Tribes and water protectors have successfully delayed construction of the Pipeline, and they intend to stop construction permanently through continued prayer and exercise of their first amendment rights. The only thing the Governor aims to do is prevent these water protectors from fulfilling their purpose, to the benefit of the pipeline company.

If the Governor was truly concerned about public safety, he would be taking actions to ensure more ready access to emergency and medical services for those residing at the encampment, such as clearing the concrete and razor wire barricade law enforcement has constructed to prohibit traffic and block access through North Dakota Highway 1806, rather than restricting the provision of emergency services to that area. The Governor’s claim that not guaranteeing emergency services will reduce threats to public safety defies logic, and the executive order in fact increases risks to public safety.

The Governor cites numerous sources as authority for the executive order, but many of them do not apply and none of them empower the Governor to exercise authority over federal and Treaty lands. Notably, the executive order does not contain enforcement language. The water protectors at whom the executive order is directed are not under imminent threat of removal by the state, just as they are not under imminent threat of removal by the United States. The Governor’s attempt to bully the tribes and the water protectors is a hollow threat and a poorly executed intimidation tactic. The tribes and the water protectors standing behind them must remain strong – in conviction, in action, and in prayer.

It is the resolve of the Tribe to stand strong against the Governor’s attempt to use the safety of the water protectors as a means for his true agenda to have the interests of the pipeline trump the interests of the Native peoples of the State of North Dakota. The water protectors have Constitutional and International rights of assembly and protest to protect the land, water and culture. The water protectors are acting in a spiritual manner through prayer and ceremony. The Governor’s veiled attempt to couch his interest in terms of the safety of the water protectors will not work now or ever. The days are gone when the white man can take Indian interests for granted and expect them to stay on their reservations and accept what the white man is willing to give them. The tribes and water protectors understand and realize the value of Unci Maka (“Mother Earth”) and its resources. Consequently, the Governor’s executive order is of no force and effect and will be treated accordingly.

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