Harold Frazier: Take action now to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., on September 26, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Tribal consultation and the Dakota Access Pipeline
By Harold Frazier

For nearly eight years, President Barack Obama’s administration has taken unprecedented steps to mandate the education of federal land management agency officials about the government’s solemn duty to protect Native lands and our sacred places, and to uphold treaty obligations to our people.

Last month, I had the great honor of sitting down face-to-face with President Barack Obama once again to relay the message that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the united voice of the Great Sioux Nation maintains its fervent opposition to the ongoing construction and planned completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project.

This pipeline jeopardizes the health of our people, the very existence of our sacred lands and waters, and directly violates the United States’ solemn treaty obligations to the Great Sioux Nation.

This situation is urgent. I stand here today to urge the administration to withdraw the finding of no significant impact (FONSI) issued in June of 2016, and subject DAPL to a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and to deny the easement to drill under the Missouri river. These actions will ensure the protection of our people, our religion and culture, and the safe exercise of our treaty rights.

DAPL proposes to send 570,000 barrels of oil each day under Lake Oahe. The EA and FONSI ignored the fact that this poison will flow beneath treaty-protected waters and will plow through sacred sites and treaty-protected lands. This water is the source of drinking water for several tribes in North and South Dakota – and millions of non-Native communities downstream.

I also ask that the Department of Justice to enhance interventions to protect the prayerful and peaceful exercise of our water protectors’ First Amendment rights. Dakota Access, LLC, and its parent corporation Energy Transfer Partners, has openly violated federal laws designed to protect our treaty rights and sacred sites. They have imposed violent military-level force upon unarmed peaceful protestors.

One day after learning about the spiritual importance of the proposed pipeline route to the Lakota people, Dakota Access bulldozed our sacred burial grounds, working over the Labor Day weekend to do so. Acting under the direction of Dakota Access and Energy Transfer, police and private security guards have used pepper spray, rubber bullets and sound cannons, and unleashed dogs on those who stand to protect these sacred waters. These demonstrators are standing up for all of us, not just for tribes, but for all of the 17 million Americans who get their drinking water from the Missouri River.

In recent days, I along with other Great Plains tribal leaders have met with officials of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice to urge the administration to withdraw the FONSI, require an EIS, and deny Dakota Access a required easement. In these meetings, we shared the united front and a common purpose and made it clear that no easement can in good conscience be granted to Dakota Access.

The United States has not conducted a full examination of the impacts of DAPL on the health of our people or environment, the protection of our trust resources, or the long-term damage that the project will wreak on our homelands.

It is not a matter of if, but when the Dakota Access Pipeline will break and spill oil into our waters and onto our lands. To date in 2016, more than two-dozen oil and gas pipelines ruptured due to natural causes or accidents in the United States. More than three-dozen similar incidents occurred in 2015 in the U.S. We are now experiencing earthquakes in the Midwest from Oklahoma to Nebraska. Leading experts have indicated these earthquakes are man-made natural disasters due to the oil industry’s use of fracking.

I again urge the Administration to subject DAPL to a full EIS and immediately deny any required easement to drill under the Missouri River. The time is now to act, to protect our people, our religion and culture, and the safe exercise of our treaty rights.

I invite all Americans concerned about clean water, concerned about your children’s future to join in a fight to protect our Unci Maka—our Grandmother Earth who sustains us all.

Harold Frazier serves as the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, based in South Dakota. He delivered this statement at the final in-person consultation session hosted by the Obama administration to discuss infrastructure projects that affect Indian Country.

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