Opinion

Kirk Francis: Indian Country must remain vigilant despite #NoDAPL victory






Nearly 4,000 veterans traveled to North Dakota this week to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the #NoDAPL movement. Photo by Indigenous Rising Media

Action Taken in the Dakota Access Pipeline
By Kirk Francis
President, United South and Eastern Tribes
usetinc.org

Sunday’s announcement by the Obama Administration to deny the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), to conduct a more stringent environmental review, to consider alternate routes, and to consult further with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was long awaited and a sign that Indian Country’s concerns are being heard.

We strongly urge the Army Corps to move forward expeditiously in identifying and securing an alternate route for the pipeline. While it is important that we recognize the value and benefit that our collective advocacy efforts had in securing this win, we must remain equally vigilant and steadfast in our determination to ensure that the next Administration does not reverse this decision and that we not let our guard down as the possibility for conflict continues.

Additionally, as expressed in a letter sent to President Obama on December 2nd that was signed by 35 Tribal Organizations, we remain concerned and outraged by the recent tactics and excessive force employed by the police against the water protectors and believe those tactics to be an outright violation of their human and civil rights. While Sunday’s easement denial announcement was a positive step forward, I continue to call upon the President to take immediate and decisive action to deescalate the conflict and to provide for the overall safety and well-being of all those involved in the protest to ensure that no further abuses are committed and no lives are lost.

Finally, the realities of DAPL serve to reinforce why it is time to replace the antiquated and paternalistic framework of the current trust model with a 21st Century model that recognizes Tribal Nations as sovereigns and equals within this special and unique Nation-to-Nation relationship. We must work together to address and correct the failures and inadequacies of our relationship to prevent DAPL-like situations in the future.

Thoughts and prayers from our USET family of Tribal Nations go out to all the water protectors and advocates who work so tirelessly in the name of upholding and protecting our inherent sovereign authorities and rights.

Kirk Francis, the president of the United South and Eastern Tribes, is the Chief of the Penobscot Indian Nation, which is located at Indian Island, Maine. He has served as Chief of the Nation since 2006 and holds the distinction of being the longest serving Chief of the Penobscot Nation since the electoral system began in 1850. Prior to becoming USET President, he served as Treasurer. In addition to serving in leadership to his Tribal Nation and USET, he also chairs the Natural Resource Committee of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).