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Tribes and Climate Activists Celebrate Court-Ordered Shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline

Thousands gathered at the San Francisco Civic Center in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline on Nov. 15, 2016. (Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr/cc) 

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

A U.S. district court on Monday delivered a major win to local Indigenous organizers and climate activists—and a significant blow to the fossil fuel industry and the Trump administration—by ordering the Dakota Access Pipeline to be shut down and emptied of oil by Aug. 5 while federal regulators conduct an environmental review of the project.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline.”
—Mike Faith, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

DAPL, as the Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) pipeline is widely known, transports crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale basin to a terminal in Illinois. The pipeline has gained international notoriety in recent years due to protests—particularly on and around the Standing Rock Indian Reservation—by environmentalists and Native Americans who live along the route.

The Monday decision by D.C.-based District Judge James E. Boasberg comes after four years of litigation brought by the Standing Rock Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, and others against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for allowing ETP to construct and operate the pipeline beneath Lake Oahe, a dammed portion of the Missouri River near the reservation.

The Obama administration denied permits for DAPL to cross the river in December 2016, but President Donald Trump signed an executive order advancing the project shortly after taking office in January 2017. The pipeline was completed and operating within months.

Boasberg’s move to shut down DAPL was welcomed by critics of the pipeline.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” added Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the tribe. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”

In a separate statement, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) delcared, “We are celebrating this order as it vindicates the many prayers, actions, and legal arguments of Oceti Sakowin tribal nations and communities!”

“The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes have shown the world that treaty rights and environmental justice are not token concepts without merit, but rather tangible arguments that inherently protect the sacredness of mother earth,” IEN said. “We will continue to fight until DAPL is stopped completely ”

Boasberg’s order Monday followed his finding in March that the Corps had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when approving federal permits for DAPL. The Corps is expected to finish it full court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the pipeline by mid-2021.

The decision to temporarily shut down DAPL came just a day after two energy companies cancelled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) that would have transported fracked gas through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina—a move that activists called a “historic victory for clean water, the climate, public health, and our communities.”

“These monumental defeats for the fossil fuel industry are a clear sign that bold community opposition, strategic legal challenges and state-level clean energy legislation are all working together to thwart the Trump administration’s pro-polluter agenda,” Food & Water Action policy director Mitch Jones said in a statement Monday, referencing both the DAPL decision and the ACP cancellation.

“The campaign to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, led by Indigenous groups whose water would have been directly impacted by that filthy project, inspired and emboldened climate activists across the country,” Jones continued. “The Trump White House can boast and bluster all it wants, and corporate behemoths can scheme to take advantage of the administration’s fondness for fossil fuels, but they are no match for determined grassroots opposition movements fighting for environmental justice and an end to the degradation of our air, water and climate.”

“Today’s ruling—arriving on the heels of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline victory—may be a calamity for oil and gas executives looking to profit from the disastrous climate crisis, but it’s a huge win for those of us committed to a liveable world.”
—Janet Redman, Greenpeace USA

“Fossil fuels are dying,” he added, “and there is little that Donald Trump can do to save them.”

Greenpeace USA climate director Janet Redman called the DAPL shutdown a “huge victory for the courageous members” of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allied activists “who fought to protect their land, their water, and their right to a healthy and safe future.”

“This is as much a victory for human rights and Indigenous sovereignty as it is for the climate,” Redman said in a statement Monday before also connecting the two wins.

“Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access Pipeline and other environmentally reckless fossil fuel infrastructure projects will only make billionaires richer while the rest of us suffer,” Redman said. “Today’s ruling—arriving on the heels of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline victory—may be a calamity for oil and gas executives looking to profit from the disastrous climate crisis, but it’s a huge win for those of us committed to a liveable world. A just transition to renewable energy is not only the future, it is the only responsible choice for today.”

“The past 24 hours,” she added, “have sent a loud and clear message to fossil fuel corporations still committed to constructing dangerous pipelines—the future does not belong to you.”

This post has been updated with comment from Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace USA.

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Over 2,000 U.S. Veterans To Form Human Shield At Dakota Pipeline Site

By Alexa Erickson | Collective Evolution

military-veteran-compressed

According to demonstration organizers, more than 2,000 U.S. military veterans plan to form a human shield to protect protesters against the North Dakota Access Pipeline, in response to a federal deadline that pressures peaceful activists to evacuate the camp they have been occupying.

Growing exhausted of the protests, North Dakota law enforcement has sought desperate measures to put the event to an end, while those occupying the site are determined to make change no matter how long or hard they have to fight. Law enforcement had previously tried to cut off supplies to the camp, but failed to follow through due to public outcry and a growing awareness of their unethical treatment of the protestors.

Protestors have been rallying for months to stop the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline from moving forward, as it would disrupt the lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, harming water resources and sacred Native American sites.

Now, former U.S. Marine Michael A. Wood Jr. and  Wesley Clark Jr., a writer whose father is retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, have formed Veterans Stand for Standing Rock. They plan to round up thousands of demonstrators at camps located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land as a means for protecting organizers.

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and a Major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, said on Twitter that she, too, will join the protectors who plan to build the human shield this Sunday.

Morton County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Rob Keller responded to the news, saying his agency was aware of the veterans’ plans, though he did not explain how law enforcement officials planned to handle the ordeal.

[Read more here]




These Sacred Sioux Sites Have Been Destroyed for the Dakota Access Pipeline

The scene on Sept. 3 as sacred sites and artifacts were bulldozed by workers for the Dakota Access Pipeline in locations pinpointed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in court papers filed the day before. Red Warrior Camp / Facebook

The scene on Sept. 3 as sacred sites and artifacts were bulldozed by workers for the Dakota Access Pipeline in locations pinpointed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in court papers filed the day before.
Red Warrior Camp / Facebook

By Chip Colwell | EcoWatch

This summer, Tim Mentz Sr. told the world via a YouTube video, which has now been removed by the user, about the destruction of his cultural heritage. A former tribal historic preservation officer of the Standing Rock Sioux, Mentz wore a baseball cap, rimless glasses and two thin braids of graying hair. He was upset and spoke rapidly about the area behind him, an expanse of the Great Plains cut by a new 150-foot-wide road.

Two days before, Mentz had testified to the DC District Court to report the area that lay in the path of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) corridor holds 82 cultural features and 27 graves. By the next day, DAPL construction workers graded the area. Behind where Mentz stood in the video was a place known as the Strong Heart Society Staff, where a sacred rattle or staff was placed within stone rings. Here members of the elite warrior society would come to make pledges. Mentz explained the site is tangible evidence that Strong Heart members followed a “spiritual path.”

As an anthropologist who has worked with Native Americans for more than a decade to document their sacred places in the paths of new power plants, power lines, water pipelines and more, the battle in North Dakota is all too familiar.

I have seen how the legal process behind environmental and archaeological reviews for energy projects, such DAPL, work—and often don’t work. The tragedy in North Dakota for cultural heritage—and the violence against protesters that has resulted—comes in part from a failure of the U.S. legal system. Consultation with tribes too often breaks down because federal agencies are unwilling to consider how Native Americans view their own heritage.

“Archaeologists—they don’t see these,” Mentz said in the video of features, including graves, within the Strong Heart Society site. “The [archaeological] firm that came through here walked over these. They do not have a connection that we have to our spiritual walk of life.”

Irreplaceable Heritage

If completed, the Dakota Access Pipeline would run from North Dakota to Illinois for nearly 1,200 miles, carrying up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. DAPL would meander across the landscape, through farms, around cities, buried underground and across more than 200 waterways. The passage of the pipeline over and under waterways requires permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This federal authorization in turns requires compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

Passed into law in 1966, the NHPA arrived in the churning wake of WWII, when America’s waiting future was threatening its irreplaceable past. The expansion of American infrastructure—highways, dams, electrical grids—was swiftly destroying ancient archaeological sites, cemeteries and historic buildings. With the NHPA, Congress declared that preservation of America’s shared heritage is in the public interest.

The stand-off between Native Americans in North Dakota and an oil pipeline project developer and police forces has inspired protests across the country. Paulann Egelhoff / Flickr

When considering a new undertaking, a number of effects on historic properties must be considered: direct (like physical destruction), indirect (like spoiling a viewshed), short-term, long-term or cumulative (like how one pipeline may not harm a site, but perhaps a dozen of them will). The NHPA does not guarantee preservation. But it requires that decision-makers balance America’s interest in development with the need to honor its history.

Related Article: Hundreds of Veterans Heading to Standing Rock to Defend DAPL Protesters from Police

For many years, Native Americans would have had little input on a project such as DAPL. But in 1992, Congress amended the NHPA to formally include traditional cultural properties. These are places that, because of their association with Native American cultural practices or beliefs of a living community, “are rooted in that community’s history” and “are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community.”

The amendments directed federal agencies, in carrying out their responsibilities under the NHPA, to consult with Indian tribes that attach religious and cultural significance to these sacred places.

Beyond Consultation

In North Dakota, federal and state review and compliance measures for DAPL were combined. Archaeologists walked the pipeline’s 357 miles in North Dakota, locating 149 sites potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Engineers rerouted DAPL to avoid all but nine sites.

Archaeologists serve an important role in documenting historic properties. But they tend to view the world through the lens of science and history. They search out buried villages, pottery shards, bones, broken stone tools. Yet in my experience, they rarely have the expertise and knowledge to identify traditional cultural properties, which are grounded in identity, culture, spirituality and the land’s living memory.

Traditional cultural properties in the U.S. can often be archaeological sites, artifacts that ancestors once touched and places that mark ancestral homes. But just as often they can be a mountain where spirits dwell or a spring where water is gathered for ceremonies. They can be a traditional area for collecting plants or animals that sustain and heal communities. They can be origin places where ancestors emerged onto the earth or named places recalled in ancient tongues.

Related Article: Millions Around the World Are Watching the Standing Rock Sioux’s Fight for Human Rights

This is why documenting traditional cultural properties requires not the work of archaeologists but Native Americans as well. On one project I conducted with the Hopi tribe to detail cultural resources along a 470-mile power line, we needed weeks of research to identify more than 200 plant species that the tribe uses in its traditional religious and healing practices.

On another project I conducted with the Zuni tribe, I watched as elders explained to the archaeologists excavating a site in the path of a new Arizona highway that they had placed a survey flag in a semicircle of rocks – which was likely a shrine used to bless and protect the ancient village. When it comes to traditional practices, Native Americans see what archaeologists overlook.

Tribal Surveys

For DAPL, a tribal survey was not undertaken. In North Dakota the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried to engage in consultation dozens of times, but the Standing Rock Sioux largely refused because the federal agency only wanted to consult on a narrow corridor at water crossings instead of the entire pipeline.

Once, though, consultation did occur at Lake Oahe on March 8. Current designs call for the pipeline to go under this now controversial waterway, which the Sioux want protected. There Standing Rock representatives showed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff important cultural resources—a cemetery, ancient village and sacred stone. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials admitted they were unaware of some of these sites.

Hopi elder Harold Polingyumptewa digs up a sööyöpi root, used for healing. Chip Colwell

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Millions Around the World Are Watching the Standing Rock Sioux’s Fight for Human Rights

By Rajie Kabli |* Collective Evolution

standing-rock-north-dakota-compressedThe North Dakota Access Pipeline protests rage on. The latest comes today when a Dakota Access company resumed construction of its pipeline that is said to run under the Missouri River after requests from Army Corps were ignored to wait as they assess re-route options.

 

The protesters call themselves water protectors. The Missouri is their main source of water and they are protecting the land, water, and air of ancient native burial grounds. Camps formed back in April and protests began in August. Members of the Sioux Indigenous tribe of Standing Rock are going up against Energy Transfer Partners, the oil company looking to finally complete the last 2000km of a pipeline running through 4 different states (Illinois, Idaho, South Dakota, North Dakota). This whole project has $3.8B invested in it from 17 national banks and a host of other investors.

But, there seems to be a bigger issue at stake here, one we’ve seen many times in the past but never confronted head on. That is, corporate interests and profits taking precedence over the health and well-being of the people and the land.

When will we realize that we cannot eat money?” I saw on someone’s status today. It alludes to the fact that the people at Standing Rock are fighting (quite literally) for basic human rights, but because that interferes with Energy Transfer Partners plans, all those rights go out the window. The police are outfitted in a lot of heavy gear. Morton county has has a HUGE boost in equipment with new militarized cars, LRAD (sound technology), mace, rubber bullets, batons, and a host of other ‘toys’ they definitely did not have before. I’m pretty sure they didn’t rent this stuff from somewhere. In the next few weeks we will be submitting a public records request to follow the money and determine who exactly was providing the police with all this highly sophisticated technology they are using on peaceful protesters.

The people are fighting to be heard. To be recognized as having legitimate concerns. The bulldozing of the land is a metaphor for the bulldozing of the hearts of the people there. This is everyone’s fight. No longer can we allow the corporations to run rampant and do whatever they want, when they want, and who they want to. There must be more attention placed on this issue. More pressure applied to those we must hold accountable for the harm they are doing  and will do to the people and the land.

[Read more here]

*Originally entitled: “MILLIONS AROUND THE WORLD ARE WATCHING”