Law | Opinion

Matthew Fletcher: Obama joins tribes on the right side of history






President Barack Obama greets a young dancer at the Cannon Ball Flag Day Powwow in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on June 13, 2014. Photo by Pete Souza / White House

Professor Matthew Fletcher of Turtle Talk discusses the Obama administration's extraordinary action to put a key part of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline on hold pending further review of issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe:
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, hundreds of Indian tribes that support its position, and the thousands of Indians that stand by its side in Cannonball lost an important ruling by a federal court on the Dakota Access Pipeline fight (DAPL), only to learn minutes later that the Obama administration, the defendant in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, would dramatically reverse its position and grant most of the relief requested by the tribe.

Indian tribes and their people often speak about taking history into consideration in making important decisions. Tribal advocates are well known for delving into the history of their tribal communities in briefings and in testimony before trial judges, sometimes to the other parties’ consternation or confusion. It makes sense though, because many tribal claims are rooted in treaty language negotiated 150 years ago or more. Federal and tribal laws on membership or trust land acquisitions, for example, sometimes make little sense unless one knows, say, the history of removal or allotment or termination.

Tribes look to the future, too. We know this because those same treaties of the 18th and 19th centuries are evidence that those tribal leaders were thinking about the future, and even the ultimate fate of Indian people. Those treaties are the source of the federal government’s obligation to protect Indian lands and resources, and to provide government services such as education and health care.

Read More on the Story:
Matthew Fletcher Law360 Commentary: “The Right Side Of History: Obama’s Administration And DAPL” (Law380 / Turtle Talk 9/12)

Relevant Documents:
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Notice of Appeal (September 9, 2016)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Motion for An Injunction Pending Appeal (September 9, 2016)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Response to Plaintiff's Motion For an Injunction (September 9, 2016)
Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (September 9, 2016)
Federal Court Decision in #NoDAPL Case (September 9, 2016)

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