Water Cannons and Tear Gas: Army Corps Stops Dakota Access For Now

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Following the Presidential election of a climate denier and investor in the Dakota Access Pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners/Sunoco now threatens to ignore the Army Corps of Engineers declaration that no permit to drill under the Missouri River will be granted without an Environmental Impact Statement. Will the Obama Administration enforce their directive and prevent the Dakota Access from violating the sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux? Will the incoming installed Presidential regime again fast-track the project? 

NoDAPL Los Angeles, SoCal 350

Nicholas Hummingbird at NoDAPL Los Angeles : “We are not protesters. We are PROTECTORS. Of land , of water, of Earth. Of those who can’t protect themselves – for those who don’t have voices, we have voice. Make noise! Water is life!” Photo by Nik Michail

Army Corps Calls for Environmental Analysis at Standing Rock 

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), slated to carry 570,000 barrels of oil per day, would threaten irreparable harm to sacred land and water as well as increase destabilization of the global climate, furthering the addiction to oil ad infinitum. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the Dakota Access ‘Nationwide Permit 12” and stopped the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline for now pending and Environmental Impact Statement, which includes, studies, public comments, and hearings.

Unfortunately, Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company for Dakota Access LLC, continues their push to finish construction of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long fracked oil pipeline that would transport shale oil from the Bakken Region of North Dakota to Illinois and eventually the Gulf Coast of Texas for export abroad. They have prepared to drill under the Missouri River and said the Obama Administration directive won’t stop them. “As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way,”

The Trump administration could easily approve the project early next year. The Obama Administration has never guaranteed the water protectors or the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that they would use force to stop Dakota Access from drilling under the river without a permit, if necessary. The Army Corps has not yet agreed to pursue a full EIS for the entire length of the pipeline.  — Camp of the Sacred Stones

The same hubris was shown when Dakota Access, LLC, released a statement on November 8, as Donald Trump assumed the position as President Elect, that they would move forward in violation of Federal law, without Army Corps permits. Payment of the fines for unpermitted construction would be a mere pittance considering the billions that will be made from flowing fracked oil into the world.

GrayWolf, Director of American Indian Movement (AIM) Southern California said in November, as a response to the Army Corps’ call for more studies:

“The last Indian War: No DAPL. This has to do with protecting Sacred Sites, protecting tribal sovereignty, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Not honoring the Treaties, it’s not surprising the construction of the pipeline continues…no offense, but the government’s word doesn’t mean anything.”

Drone Footage of Dakota Access Pipeline Approaching Missouri River – Dakota Access machines building Hesco barriers, normally used to protect U.S. military bases in war zones like Iraq or Afghanistan, to protect an area believed to be the drill box site from water protectors.

Oceti Sakowin Water Protector Camps May Continue

Since this summer, thousands of Indigenous Peoples and their allies opposed to the pipeline have journeyed to the borderland of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, staking teepees and tents along the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri Rivers. The property, managed by the Corps, is ancestral Treaty land of the Great Sioux Nation. Until November 25, the Corps had permitted Standing Rock Sioux tribal members and their supporters to occupy the plot — an area that the federal agency has leased for private grazing or haying purposes in the past.

Greg Grey Cloud: “We beat a pipeline (KXL) in SD that threatened to run through Rosebud, the same way DAPL threatens to run through Standing Rock, WITH PRAYER! Yes we had actions… But they were led by prayer and they were always culturally specific actions! Never did anyone we get hurt or arrested…”

 STORY: Los Angeles: Thousands Rally in National Protest Against Dakota Access Pipeline

Mike Chickey, NoDAPL, Los Angeles

Dakota Access Destroys Water! Over the Harbor Freeway in Downtown Los Angeles at the Nov 15 Day of Action. Photo by Mike Chickey.

Thus, the Obama Administration issued an eviction notice to the Oceti Sakowin encampments as a letter from the US Army Corps of Engineers to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. They informed that on Dec. 5th, they will “close” all lands north of the Cannonball River, where the Oceti Sakowin encampment is located, and establish “free speech zones” on the other side of the river. They  released an update following that, claiming they would not forcibly remove the protectors, but they would be subject to ticketing or arrest.

It is no coincidence they chose Dec 5th, General George Armstrong Custer’s birthday. Custer broke the treaty to dig for gold; the Army Corps at least threatened to break the treaty over oil. Only time, prayer, and serious actions will stop this project from happening.

Ben Hauck, Dakota Access Pipeline, SoCal 350

Crowds demand Army Corps deny Dakota Access permits and stop construction of the pipeline permanently. Photo by Ben Hauck.

As the Standing Rock Coalition [Camp of the Sacred Stones, International Indigenous Youth Council, Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth] noted, the Oceti Sakowin encampment is located on the ancestral homeland of the Lakota, Mandan, Arikara, and Northern Cheyenne — on territory never ceded to the U.S. government, and affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie as sovereign land belonging to the Great Sioux Nation.

The encampment is, in many respects, a reclamation of this stolen territory and the right to self-determination guaranteed in the treaties. The water protectors can never be trespassers. The Army Corps, furthermore, has no authority to diminish the Tribes’ right to free speech. Where in the Constitution does it establish zones for the right to free speech? Do corporations now decide whether the Constitution applies? The Oceti Sakowin camps affirm they are not moving, and will not be silenced.

Honor the Treaties? Why the US Hasn’t…

Why has the U.S. Federal government not stepped up to honor 165 years of abrogating the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 and protect the Standing Rock Sioux? Could it be that for the U.S. to act in favor of the protectors means they must admit to and make reparations for constant violations of treaties with Native Peoples for generations?

Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851

According to the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, the water itself is in the care of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations. “The territory of the Sioux or Dahcotah Nation, commencing the mouth of the White Earth River, on the Missouri River: thence in a southwesterly direction to the forks of the Platte River: thence up the north fork of the Platte River to a point known as the Red Bute, or where the road leaves the river; thence along the range of mountains known as the Black Hills, to the head-waters of Heart River; thence down Heart River to its mouth; and thence down the Missouri River to the place of beginning.” (State & Library, N.D.)

North Dakota stands to generate significant revenue from DAPL, so they have utilized a “right of way” clause in the treaties to justify selling/leasing/allowing DAPL to build through public and private land. However, by potentially threatening the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux, the United States and the State of North Dakota are allowing a significant and irreversible impact to the Reservation. Without an official consultation, nor free, prior, and informed consent, they would violate the treaty and “right of way” passage.

STORY: Water is Life: Native Nations Stopping Dakota Access Pipeline

Cannonball River, Oceti Sakowin

Visual of all 3 camps, estimated population 10,000 plus Water Protectors with several thousand Veterans coming in the few days: Sacred Stones, Rosebud, and Oceti Sakowin. Photo by Digital Smoke Signals

Water Really is Life

“The practical and spiritual importance of the waters of Lake Oahe to the life of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cannot be underestimated,” Chairman Dave Archambault wrote in his November letter to Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy. An oil spill from the Dakota Access pipeline there would be devastating, as well as threaten the drinking water for 18 million people living downriver. Yet the Final Environmental Assessment (EA) dismisses the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s concerns, stating that direct and indirect impacts of the proposed crossing at Lake Oahe “will not affect members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe or the Tribal reservation.” Final EA at 85.

Video published by Unicorn Riot of tear gas canisters and water cannons sprayed directly into crowds of protesters on Nov 20, when temperatures stood well below freezing, countered police claims that the water was being used primarily to protect people from fire.

An independent expert hired by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has found that the government’s Environmental Assessment of the Dakota Access pipeline’s impact on land, water, and cultural resources was inadequate. Richard Kuprewicz of Accufacts, Inc., a consulting firm that advises government agencies and industry about pipelines, found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to address pipeline safety and the risk the pipeline poses to the waters of Lake Oahe and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which draws its drinking water from that lake.

Standing with Standing Rock, Everywhere

One must consider the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular Articles 19 and 32 which require that States obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples prior adopting legislation or undertaking projects that affect Indigenous Peoples rights to lands, territory, and resources.

On November 15 for a NoDAPL Day of Action in Los Angeles, the SoCal Indigenous Peoples and Allies in Support of Standing Rock wrote a letter to the Army Corps, which WilderUtopia was one of 18 signatories. Advising to go beyond the recent call for a government-to-government consultation, the Corps must obtain a “free, prior, and informed consent” to move forward with Dakota Access. The coalition requested the Army Corps revisit earlier decisions regarding the Lake Oahe crossing and determine, based on the public interest and environmental risks, that the easement for that crossing should be permanently denied.

Until then, actions will continue at Standing Rock and nationwide.

Photos of NoDAPL LA by Ben Hauck

Photos of NODAPL Los Angeles – Nov 15 Day of Action by Mike Chickey

Updated 7 December 2016

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt