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United Nations Forum backs Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on #NoDAPL






Chairman Dave Archambault II, right, is seen with a Pacific Northwest delegation at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe headquarters in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Photo by Paul Anderson / Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey

The #NoDAPL resistance movement is attracting international attention as the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline remains in limbo.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, an official body of the United Nations, released a statement on Wednesday expressing support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. Indigenous leaders are calling on the United States to ensure the tribe is adequately consulted before the controversial project moves forward.

"The pipeline would adversely affect not only the security and access to drinking water of the Sioux and millions of people living downstream of the Missouri River, but it would also destroy archaeological, historical and sacred sites of the Sioux," the statement, which was signed by Alvaro Pop Ac, an indigenous leader from Guatemala who chairs the Permanent Forum, and two other members of the forum.

"Given these circumstances, we call on the government of the United States to comply with the provisions recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ensure the right of the Sioux to participate in decision-making, considering that the construction of this pipeline will affect their rights, lives and territory," the statement continues, referring to the UN Declaration that the United States officially supports.

Consultation is a central issue in the legal battle against the pipeline, whose path comes within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. A lawsuit accuses the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers of failing to address the tribe's concerns.

"Our water is at risk because a pipeline, through which more than half a million gallons of oil per day shall flow, is being built across the Missouri River, just north of our nation’s border," Chairman Dave Archambault II told the court in a sworn declaration.

The Obama administration insists the tribe has been consulted. At a hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday, Matt Marinelli of the Department of Justice said the Army Corps fulfilled its duties under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

"They do have a role in the 106 process off their trust land," Marinelli told the court, noting that the pipeline does not actually cross the reservation.

Beyond that process, Marinelli suggested the tribe was out of options. He said the United States does not have an "enforceable trust duty" that might otherwise require the Army Corps to take a broader look at the threats the pipeline poses to Standing Rock.

Judge James E. Boasberg has pledged to issue a decision on the tribe's request for a preliminary injunction against the Army Corps by the end of next week.

The Army Corps has all but approved every portion of the 1,172-mile pipeline that affects land under the agency's jurisdiction. The exception is an easement that would authorize construction at Lake Oahe at a site near the reservation.

The Army Corps is required to notify Congress 14 days before it issues the easement. The tribe is asking Indian Country to contact lawmakers in hopes putting the brakes on that process.

The tribe also continues to welcome supporters to its reservation and to the #NoDAPL resistance camps that have drawn more than 2,000 to the Missouri River. A large delegation from the Pacific Northwest, including the Lummi Nation, whose leaders came as part of the Totem Pole Journey, arrived on Tuesday.

“We continue to welcome all Native Nations and non-indigenous supporters to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock’s peaceful and lawful opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline," Chairman Archambault said on Thursday. "I personally welcome all North Dakotans who care about water to stand with us as well.”

So far, more than 150 tribes in the U.S. and First Nations in Canada have passed resolutions or sent letters of support to Standing Rock. Many have sent critical supplies, including food and water, to the camps, which include the Camp of the Sacred Stones and the Red Warrior Camp.

Despite the peaceful nature of the large gathering, the North Dakota Highway Patrol continues to maintain what it calls a "traffic control point" on a highway that leads to the reservation and to the camps. The roadblock requires supporters to take a longer route to reach Standing Rock but Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has defended it it as a "safety" measure.

Safety issues, according to Kirchmeier, include cars parked on the sides of the highway. Previously he accused pipeline resisters of threatening his officers with "pipe bombs" even though no weapons were ever observed by deputies.

After his unfounded statements were criticized by tribal leaders, tribal citizens and by members of the media, Kirchmeier softened his tone on Tuesday when he said he agreed to talks about removing the roadblock. But on Wednesday, his office posted a video of what were called "high intesity [sic] moments" at a pipeline construction site. Eight people were arrested for "unlawful protest activity," a post on Facebook read.

"Most of our neighbors on Standing Rock want this to be a peaceful protest," Kirchmeier said afterward. "However there are a number of individuals like those involved in today's protest who are engaging in unlawful activities."

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