Standing Rock Sioux get assist from President Obama

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Eight days ago I wrote about the Standing Rock Sioux, with hundreds of other Native American nations, protesting and trying to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Apparently my last blog was so influential President Obama took notice and spoke out in favor of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Or maybe he listened to more prominent voices on the topic.

Protectors of the land and water
Protectors of the land and water

Either way, this past Friday (February 9) the Obama Administration, through the Justice Department, released a statement about the pipeline and the protests. it said in part, “The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.  The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution.  In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

And, “Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.  Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.”

They end the statement saying, “In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites. It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest,”

The Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, David Archambault II, released a statement saying, “Our hearts are full, this [is] an historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for tribes across the nation, Our voices have been heard.”

Protectors of the land and water
Protectors of the land and water

He also told Democracy Now that weren’t protestors, but protectors of the land, which is a more accurate description of what the tribes were doing.

On Facebook the Standing Rock Tribe posted a message calling the administration’s statement “stunning” saying, “This federal statement is a game changer for the Tribe and we are acting immediately on our legal options, including filing an appeal and a temporary injunction to force DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) to stop construction.”

Stunning indeed. Earlier in the day a federal judge in Washington, D.C., James Boasberg, ruled in favor of pipeline supporters, saying the Army Corps of Engineers, “likely” followed all the federal rules when it first gave the green light to the pipeline.

Since the beginning of the month the confrontation between the builders of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners and their security forces, and the protectors has gotten extremely heated, to the point one of the pipeline’s security companies used dogs to attack protestors. Dogs have not been used on Americans since the fight for Civil Rights in the 1950s and ’60s.

Democracy Now was at the protests with their video cameras and recorded the security forces dousing the protectors with pepper spray and then letting the dogs attack and bite some of the people. The security people actually let some of the dogs off their leashes to do so.

Despite these horrific attacks, the protectors didn’t stop, they continued, chanting, “Water is life.” The pipeline was to go under several waterways, including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

One of the attack dogs with its handler near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
One of the attack dogs with its handler near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

One of the big questions people were asking was, “Where is law enforcement?”

Apparently local authorities left the site once the private security firms arrived. In an ironic twist, a spokeswoman for the pipeline builders, Vicki Granado, issued a statement saying the company was appalled by the violence, but stated it was started by some of the protesters trying to save the sacred land.

Readers can link to Democracy Now’s Twitter account and find links to their more substantive posts, including those of Amy Goodman.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was at the site spray-painting graffiti on some of the heavy equipment used by the construction company.

The situation isn’t over. The president’s intervention doesn’t stop the pipeline permanently, it just pauses it until complete impact studies can be conducted, including input from Native American nations. As the DoJ statement says, the administration would like to reform the rules by which infrastructure projects like the pipeline are either approved or denied.

All photos are screen shots from YouTube