With “Independence Day” upon us, unspooling the usual vaingloriously selective memory pageant, we serve to relay a recent missive from the honorable Janet Alkire, Chairwoman of the Standing Rock Sioux, with a link to a recent video.
If you’ve been following our email updates for the past couple months, I hope you’re getting some valuable new perspectives on the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) from our “Dakota Water Wars” series, co-produced by Standing Rock in conjunction with the Oceti Sakowin, the Great Plains Water Alliance, and the Lakota People’s Law Project. Today, I invite you to take in our fifth installment: Ignoring Tribes and Ignoring Laws.
Here’s the bottom line: little has changed since the colonizers arrived on the shores of Turtle Island more than 500 years ago. Our voices are neither heard nor respected, and, whether the issue of the day is resource depletion or extraction, the consequences for our people are never considered important by the U.S. government. But there are always consequences.
We have been removed, relocated, reeducated, and killed. Our rivers have been poisoned, and our animal relatives brought to the edge of extinction and beyond. The same patterns repeat again and again, and still we remain marginalized and muted.
But it’s not only we who are ignored; there are also laws. Good laws that affect our people have, on occasion, been passed, including the Indian Child Welfare Act (which is now under attack at the Supreme Court). But, too often, when an opportunity arises to take our children or extract the next resource, like the toxic Bakken crude oil flowing through DAPL, the colonizer finds ways around his own laws. Or, perhaps, he breaks them knowing he’ll get away with it, especially if the groups most adversely affected are Native.
That’s exactly what happened with DAPL. During our lawsuit to stop the pipeline, the Department of Justice argued that tribal input wasn’t required. The judge disagreed, saying that denying our ability to refute the oil company’s specious claims means DAPL remains “highly controversial under NEPA.” Since the National Environmental Policy Act is there in part to regulate impacts of projects like this one, the oil company is ignoring not just us, but also the law. Sadly, though, there have been no consequences for the oil company, because the U.S. government has abdicated its responsibility to enforce its own laws.
That’s why I continue to make sure you’re aware of what’s happening, and it’s why I’m pressuring federal agencies to hold up their end of the bargain. It’s up to all of us to keep fighting. As our elder, Phyllis Young, says in the video: we must define and instill a new culture of mutual respect, mutual participation, and mutual benefit.
Thank you for watching, reading, and standing with Standing Rock.
ChairwomanStanding Rock Sioux Tribe