SEP 10, 2016 9:44 AM PDT

First Nation Tribes and Environmentalists Protest the Dakota Access Pipeline

The US$3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which would run from 1,200 miles from Illinois to North Dakota,crossing through Iowa and South Dakota and carrying 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day, has brought together hundreds of Native American tribes across the United States in solidarity with the local tribes, which have been resisting construction since April. The pipeline would destroy sacred and cultural sites of many tribes as well as pollute the drinking water of millions and threaten local ecosystems.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which first built the Sacred Stone Camp where 1,000-3,000 people have been living during the resistance, has a suit pending against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for granting the construction permit. Now a second lawsuit is in order from The Yankton Sioux Tribe, also known as the Ihanktonwan Oyate. The tribe has claimed in the suit, which is filed against the Corps as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that the approval for the pipeline’s permit was illegal because it “foreclosed the legally-mandated consultation process before consultation even began.” The Corps also failed to seek free prior and informed consent, it argues, which is mandated because the pipeline would cross treaty-protected sacred burial and cultural sites.

The lawsuit stresses that a consultation is not only legally required but essential “because tribes possess unique knowledge and expertise with respect to sacred and cultural sites, much of which sounds in oral history,” which is why many of the protected sites are still undocumented.
Phil Little Thunder Sr., from the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, carries water from his hometown for the sacred ceremony to the burial ground in North Dakota. Photo: Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

Illegally-pushed permits aren’t the only fishy aspect of the pipeline.

According to a recent study by Food & Water Watch, the two companies behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, are funded by 26 and 24 banks, respectively. Six of those financial institutions—JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citibank—lent a total of US$200 billion to the pipeline, seen as a lucrative long-term investment in the emerging oil and gas industry in the U.S.

Except none of the banks want to talk about their commitments to the project.

“While we respect the important opinions involved in this dispute, Wells Fargo does not take positions on public policy issues that do not directly affect our ability to serve our customers or support our team members," Wells Fargo spokesperson Alan Elias told teleSUR. “We do business only with companies that have demonstrated a strong, ongoing commitment to complying with all laws and regulations.” Morgan Stanley wrote in an email to teleSUR, "We will decline to comment."

Activists in California are organizing actions next week in the state capital, Sacramento, and in San Francisco, both targeting Citibank, which has contributed over US$91 million to Energy Transfer Partners, which owns a 45% stake in the project.

Nevertheless, a partial win came yesterday when the two lawsuits came to a conclusion in court with the U.S. government’s  order to stop construction on a part of the Dakota Access Pipeline on federal land that is particularly significant to the tribe and urged the pipeline companies to do the same on private land despite an earlier ruling by a federal judge turning down a similar request. The U.S. Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior said in a joint statement: "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." The departments said they are inviting tribes to Washington to discuss new legislation to "ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights."

Sources: TeleSur TV, NPR, The New York Times
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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