Flagstaff rallies in support of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — As a tempoary decision to stop the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), which could be constructed across treaty lands a half-mile from Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota was reached Sept. 9, Indigenous Youth 4 Cultural Survival gathered outside Flagstaff City Hall Sept. 6 in a show of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The rally featured community members speaking out on the importance of protecting indigenous land, rights and the safety of indigenous communities and protection of waterways.

Following the rally outside of the city council building, Indigenous Youth 4 Cultural Survival requested councilmembers add a discussion about the pipeline to a future agenda.

Additionally, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez issued a letter Aug. 23 supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the DAPL.

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as they defend the encroachment of potential environmental disasters along their traditional border,” Begaye said.

The Standing Rock Sioux have been fighting the construction of the oil pipeline, proposed to be built under the Missouri River on treaty lands a half-mile from its reservation. The tribe is concerned with threats to the water supply if the pipleline is constructed.

Following demonstrations across the country, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, exercising their First Amendment rights who voiced concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites of the Sioux, the departments of Justice, Interior and Army issued a joint statement halting construction tempoarily and looking for a path forward that recognizes tribal interest in issues such as these.

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time,” the statement read.

Additionally, the statement said the departments will move quickly to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution.

The Department of the Interior requested the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe in North and South Dakota. Additionally, the statement said the departments and all parties involved should work to develop a path forward that would serve the broadest public interest.

“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects. Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals,” the statement said.

Begaye and Nez’s joint letter reiterated that these types of issues are not new for Native American tribes, which continually fight to protect the sanctity of their natural resources and tribal territories.  

“Time and again, Native American tribes have faced encroaching development upon tribal lands from industry and the federal government,” Nez said. “Industrial interests have damaged Indian lands and left tribes with the legacy of cleaning up. From uranium mining to the recent Gold King Mine spill and Dakota Access Pipeline, these issues continue.”

The letter was addressed to Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, and pledged water and other necessities to assist those who are present in the formal resistance and opposition of the pipeline.

“In defending their traditional homeland against development that could potentially harm their lands and the purity of their natural resources, the Navajo Nation stands in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” Begaye said.

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