Standing Rock Sioux Appeal to United Nations
August 20, 2016—The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the International Indian Treaty Council have appealed to the United Nations for help in their fight against construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline under the Missouri River on Treaty lands a half-mile from the reservation.
“We specifically request that the United States Government impose an immediate moratorium on all pipeline construction until the Treaty Rights and Human Rights of the Standing Rock Tribe can be ensured and their free, prior and informed consent is obtained,” Chairman Dave Archambault and the Treaty Council said in their appeal to top U.N. human rights officials.
As a matter of extreme urgency, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Treaty Council jointly submitted an urgent action communication to four U.N. human rights Special Rapporteurs citing “ongoing threats and violations to the human rights of the Tribe, its members and its future generations.” The tribe’s water supply is threatened by construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which was permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late July, despite the objections of three federal agencies including the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
“Its proposed route is in close proximity to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the Missouri River, the main source of water for the Tribe,” the appeal said of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline, which would wend its way through four states and carry up to half-a-billion barrels of oil daily from the Bakken oil fields. “This pipeline’s construction is being carried out without the Tribe’s free, prior and informed consent in direct contradiction to their clearly expressed wishes.”
A hearing on the tribe’s request for an injunction is scheduled in Washington, D.C. federal court on Wednesday, August 24. [According to a Your News Leader article dated August 25, 2016 by Samantha-Jo Roth, titled, “Hundreds of protesters gather in Washington D.C. for Dakota Access Pipeline construction hearing,” “Judge James E. Boasberg from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia says he’ll make a final decision on pipeline on or before September 9, 2016.]
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II and others have emphasized the peaceful nature of the gathering, saying only that they want to protect the water.
They are calling for a halt to construction at least until the court hearing that will examine the tribe’s request for an injunction as part of a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its lack of a comprehensive review on the project. Construction was officially halted by Energy Transfer, the company building the pipeline, but reports have surfaced of work being done across the Missouri River from the camp, on the South Dakota side.
The Dakota Access pipeline violates tenets of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the “right to health, right to water and subsistence, threats against sacred sites including burial grounds, Treaty Rights, cultural and ceremonial practices, free prior and informed consent, traditional lands and resources including water, productive capacity of the environment, and self-determination,” the appeal said. It cites environmental racism stemming from the Army Corp’s decision not to locate the pipeline north of Bismarck over concerns it would endanger the city’s water supply, while issuing permits to trench through burial grounds and the Tribe’s main water supply. This is a direct violation of the human right to water, the appeal said.
“This submission calls attention to the urgent and worsening threats and violations of the human rights and ways of life of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who depend greatly for their means of subsistence and their physical and cultural health upon the Missouri River,” the appeal said, citing a myriad of oil spills and leakages.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline poses an imminent threat to the Missouri River due to potential contamination by oil spills directly impacting the Tribe’s drinking water,” the appeal continued. “Based on data from a large number of oil pipelines, spills of toxic oil are a near certainty. Most experts believe it is not a matter of if but when such a spill will contaminate the ground and river water upon which the Tribe depends.”
The appeal was addressed directly to Michel Forst, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples; Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and John Knox, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. Others alerted include the High Commissioner on Human Rights; the U.S. Department of State, the Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the office of Multi-Lateral and Global Affairs/Democracy Human Rights and Labor, and the White House.
North Dakota Governor declares emergency
Meanwhile, as peaceful protests continued on the site and at the state capitol for the second week, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency in several counties as construction was halted on site as thousands of water protectors arrived and camped along the river.
Declaring a state of emergency paves the way for more funding for public safety and other resources to be mobilized “for the purpose of protecting the health, safety and well-being of the general public and those involved in the protest,” the governor’s office stated in a press release, noting that it does not activate the National Guard. “The executive order can help the state and local agencies manage costs associated with providing a heightened law enforcement presence and activates the State Emergency Operations Plan to coordinate the efficient flow of resources.”
Some North Dakota residents are questioning why taxpayers are footing the bill for law enforcement manpower to protect a wealthy billionaire who owns Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of Dakota Access Pipeline LLC.
In Iowa, residents are also suing the government, saying that Dakota Access LLC illegally wielded eminent domain to obtain rights of way on their land. That right rests solely with utility companies, they have argued in court. A ruling is pending on that as well, according to The DesMoines Register. Construction has begun in all four states.
—Indian Country, August 20, 2016