ReZpect Our Water: Young members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe rally in front of the White House on August 6, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com
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Tribes and Native youth join forces in campaign to stop oil pipeline





Efforts to stop a crude oil pipeline from crossing the Great Plains continue to build steam as tribes and Native youth join forces to protect their sacred lands and treaty territories.

As the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was preparing a lawsuit challenging the Dakota Access Pipeline in federal court, youth from the reservation and from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe embarked on a 2,000-mile relay run across the nation. Their journey culminated with two days of action in Washington, D.C., where they explained their opposition to the controversial project.

"Our reservation is in great danger and we need your support," Bobbi Jean Three Legs, a young member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said at a rally in front of the White House on August 6, a day after the youth staged a protest march from the U.S. Capitol to the headquarters of the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers.

"When this pipeline breaks, it will only take five minutes for oil to get into our water intake system," added Three Legs, one of the organizers of the ReZpect Our Water movement. [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter]

ReZpect Our Water: Chanting "Mni Wiconi" or "Water is Life," young members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe drew supporters and onlookers during a rally in front of the White House on August 6, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

During their stop in D.C., the youth brought a petition bearing more than 160,000 signatures to the Army Corps, whose approval has cleared the way for the project. They are calling on the agency to rescind federal permits for the 1,172-mile pipeline, which would come within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The Army Corps is also the target of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's lawsuit. In a sworn declaration, Chairman Dave Archambault II noted that President Barack Obama made a historic visit to the reservation in June 2014 and was deeply affected after speaking with young residents.

"The President saw our dances. The President met with, and was moved by, our youth – their struggles," Archambault said in his statement. "Despite their struggles, one of our youth sang an 'encouragement song' for the President, that the President may have strength to endure the challenges of his position. That is part of who we are."

The Obama administration has yet to respond to the lawsuit, which was filed in the federal court in D.C. But it's already gearing up to be a complex and potentially high-profile affair -- Dakota Access, the backers of the pipeline, have already filed a motion to intervene in order to defend the permits received from the Army Corps.

The ReZpect Our Water rally took at the White House on August 6, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, whose members also ran across the country, filed a motion to intervene as well. The pipeline would come within 70 miles of the reservation and it would only take about three hours for crude oil to enter the water system there in the event of a break, according to youth who took part in the White House rally.

In a declaration, Chairman Harold Frazier said the Army Corps failed to consult the tribe before issuing the permits for the pipeline. He echoed the concerns raised by the youth, citing the importance of water to the Lakota people.

"The waters of Lake Oahe also supply the people the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe with most of their drinking water," Frazier told the court. "But just as importantly, the waters of the Missouri River and Lake Oahe are sacred to the Lakota people and essential to the practice of our religion and our way of life."

"Discharges into Lake Oahe, whether scheduled or accidental, as a result of the DAPL have the potential to endanger the health and the livelihoods of the people of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe," he concluded.

ReZpect Our Water: A rainstorm failed to dampen enthusiasm as a rally led by young tribal members drew a crowd, drumming and even some dancing in front of the White House on August 6, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

The Dakota Access Pipeline would start in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota before crossing into South Dakota. From there the route goes through Iowa -- where the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Meskwaki Tribe have raised objections.

The pipeline path ends in Illinois and backers say it would carry about 470,000 barrels a day. It has the capacity to carry up to 570,000 barrels a day or even more, according to Dakota Access.

The pipeline does not directly cross any reservations but it goes through territories ceded by tribes through treaties. It also goes through historic tribal sites, including a burial ground in the northwest part of Iowa.

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