Stand with Standing Rock

Dog at Cannon Ball
Guest Commentary

Published September 7, 2016

By Lakota People’s Law Project

STANDING ROCK INDIAN RESERVATION– The following statement was released by the Lakota People’s Law Project on Monday evening:

Dogs are being sicced on Native Americans protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in a chaotic scene reminiscent of the 1960’s civil rights movement. Pictures and video reveal dogs with blood stained teeth as they are being used by private security officers to quell thousands of protesters fighting to protect their land.

Law officials and news agencies are portraying a scene where guards are being attacked by vicious protestors—this is a manipulation of the truth. In one example, the Denver Post writes, “Four private security guards and two guard dogs received medical treatment, officials said, while a tribal spokesman noted that six people—including a child—were bitten by the dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.”

Take a moment to examine the structure of the sentence. According to news agencies like the Denver Post, a guard dog’s health status is more important than the child it was sicced on.

Crowd outside Federal Court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. Native News Online photo by Randall Slikkers

Crowd outside Federal Court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. Native News Online photo by Randall Slikkers

This protest is more than just about the pipeline — it’s about a history of broken promises and abuse. It’s about treating the Native Americans in our nation as second-class citizens. Ninety-plus Native American communities have joined the protest, demanding an end to the project.

A former Washoe Tribe leader once said “the health of the land and the health of the people are tied together, what happens to the land also happens to the people.” The DAPL will jeopardize the land in such a way that the health and lives of thousands of Native American will be at risk.

Protests are occurring around the pipeline site, which is a half-mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. If completed, the pipeline threatens not only their sacred sites, but also their main water source.  Millions of barrels of fracked oil are projected to run underneath the Missouri River daily, which, given the extensive history of leaks and spills of North Dakota’s oil industry, makes the issue of serious contamination an issue of “when” rather than “if.”

Between 2006 and 2014 there were 8,690 reported leaks in North Dakota alone, according to the New York Times. Of those, nearly 30% were “uncontained,” that is, the spill occurred or migrated off the production site to pollute surrounding land and water.

A ruling on the Standing Rock lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for granting the permits for the pipeline is expected September 9th. The complaint cites a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act, as well as the Corp’s dismissal of tribal input and the presence of culturally significant sites.

Last week, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues reiterated that the Standing Rock Sioux needs a proper say in the pipeline’s construction. Failing to consult the tribe violates Article 19 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which requires “free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”

The ignorance of the Corps to the necessary legal and ethical parameters is systemic within federal attitudes toward Native American lands. More telling is that the tax revenues being offered to other counties along the pipeline’s path (stretching 1,164 miles from North Dakota to Illinois) will not be offered to Sioux County. Meaning, for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, their land and primary water source will almost certainly be degraded without them receiving any sort of financial benefit or restitution.

Today, a federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled to temporarily halt some of the construction on the pipeline, specifically between State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe. Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Dave Archambault II says he is disappointed that the ruling won’t stop the destruction of sacred sites. This decision yet again shows that the most important political office is that of the private citizen — make your voice heard, stand with Standing Rock.

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