A YEAR AGO: Youth from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe olds a ReZpect Our Water rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline in front of the White House on August 6, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Anticipation builds as Indian Country calls for shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline

A year after the #NoDAPL movement burst onto the scene, Indian County remains united in calling for the shutdown of the controversial crude oil pipeline.

In a joint brief, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe asked a federal judge on Monday to stop oil from flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their request is being supported by the National Congress of American Indians, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association, 18 individual tribes and group of law professors across the country.

"Yesterday, we filed a powerful brief with the courts making our case for why the pipeline should be shut down while the courts decide an appropriate path forward," Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement on Tuesday. "In cases where an agency is found to have made such serious errors, it is typical that the action in question be halted. In this case, that means shutting down the pipeline."

The filing comes a little over a year after Standing Rock sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late July 2016. Cheyenne River leaders were allowed to intervene a few weeks later.

The rest, as they say, is history. After youth from both tribes ran thousands of miles across the country to drum up support for the cause, tens of thousands of people began flocking to North Dakota to express their opposition to the project with the now-common rallying cry "Water Is Life," which comes from the Lakota phrase Mni Wiconi.

NATIVE NATIONS RISE: Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is joined by Chairman JoDe Goudy of the Yakama Nation at a rally in front of the White House on March 10, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The intense and widespread opposition forced the Obama administration to retreat from approving the final portion of the pipeline until tribal concerns were addressed. The complaints were consistent -- treaties, water resources and sacred sites were being ignored by the Army Corps, a federal agency with a troubled history in Indian Country.

But the picture changed dramatically once President Donald Trump took office on January 20. Four days later, he directed his administration to "expedite" the final portion at a site less than a half-mile from the Standing Rock border.

Two weeks later, on February 7, the Army Corps approved the project without consulting the tribes. Chairman Archambault found out after his plane landed in Washington, D.C., for a meeting with the White House that had taken weeks to secure. Cheyenne River leaders were told in a phone call after the fact.

The decision allowed the wealthy backers of the pipeline to complete the final leg by drilling under the Missouri River. Oil started flowing on June 1 -- six months behind the original schedule, but still a huge victory nonetheless for Energy Transfer Partners, whose billionaire chief executive was among the top individual donor's to Trump's presidential campaign, according to Capital Research Center.

The tribes are now in an uphill battle against the new administration, whose legal team quickly shifted tactics under Trump's direction. The Department of Justice, after finding ways to delay the final portion during the Obama era, is now supporting Energy Transfer's bid to keep oil from flowing without interruption.

A YEAR LATER: Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe speaks out against the Keystone XL Pipeline, another infrastructure project approved by the Trump administration, at a rally in Lincoln, Nebraska, on August 6, 2017. Photo: Remi N Alaina

Despite the changes in Washington, D.C., it turns out the tribes were right all along, at least in the eyes of the law. The Army Corps took action without considering treaty rights, water resources and environmental justice, Judge James Boasberg ruled in June.

"The solution is clear and simple: do not interfere with or imperil tribal treaty rights in the first instance," the tribes and tribal organization said in a brief supporting Standing Rock and Cheyenne River. "Give treaty rights due consideration and analysis and develop mitigation measures where necessary. Engage in tribal consultation early in the planning process, so that there is a clear understanding of an Indian tribe’s rights, interests, and concerns."

Officially, government attorneys have said the analysis will happen. But as of Wednesday afternoon, the Army Corps hadn't initiated an environmental impact statement for the project. The Trump team had canceled the review in February.

And it still may be awhile before the tribes see some sort of response from Washington. "The Corps is actively evaluating the issues remanded to it by the court and expects to complete its review of those issues by late December 2017," government attorneys wrote in a July 17 brief.

And despite ruling for the tribes on the environmental review, Boasberg is in no rush to rule on their request to shut down operations Under a scheduled agreed to by all parties, the Army Corps and Dakota Access have until August 17 to reply to the brief submitted on Monday.

After that, the tribes have until August 28 to submit their final arguments. Boasberg might issue a ruling sometime after that.

"While these things are being considered, we must continue to insist that the court should vacate the easement as well as the finding of no significant impact, and vacate other approvals pending completion of a full environmental impact statement," Chairman Archambault said in his statement.

The 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline starts in North Dakota. The route goes through South Dakota before entering Iowa. It terminates in Illinois.

#NoDAPL Shutdown Briefs:
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe | National Congress of American Indians / Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Association / Tribes | Law Professors | Lakota People's Law Office

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