By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST), whose reservation encompasses portions of both North Dakota and South Dakota, is currently embroiled in a fight that has garnered national attention. SRST leaders and tribal members have set up an area, known as the Sacred Stone Camp, to protest the construction of the 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline near the reservation by Energy Transfer Partners .
Over 100 federally-recognized American Indian tribes have already passed resolutions and proclamations of support for the SRST, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the latest tribe to lend its support. During its Budget Council session on Tuesday, Sept. 6, Tribal Council passed a resolution, submitted by Vice Chief Richard G. Sneed, demonstrating the Tribe’s support of the SRST.
“This is an issue of tribal sovereignty, but it is also an issue of moderating a treaty, and more importantly, it’s an issue of water rights,” Vice Chief Sneed told Council on Tuesday. “Water is something that we tend to take for granted, especially here since we have some of the best water on the planet…where this pipeline is set to cross, just north of the reservation where it’s set to cross the Missouri River, when there is a break, that will pollute their only water source.”
He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not negotiated with SRST leaders. “There were no talks with the Standing Rock Tribe. This has just rolled forward without any input from the Tribe at all.”
Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley said he has received a lot of texts and messages about the pipeline and the protests, and he made a motion for the EBCI to donate $50,000 to Standing Rock. “I know they’re in a legal battle, and we all know what legal battles cost. Fifty-thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money, but if you’re in a legal battle, it’s not.”
The motion for the donation was approved along with the resolution. Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor said he fully supports the resolution and advocated for the EBCI to get a truck to ship supplies, such as water and other commodities, to Standing Rock.
He said the way in which the pipeline has been handled by the federal government upsets him. “The Army Corps of Engineers didn’t consult with the tribe (Standing Rock Sioux) or anything like that, and that kind of sticks in my craw. Every time we talk about cutting a tree on the reservation, we have to consult with the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Chairman Taylor related that he has drafted a letter on the issue to the federal government outlining the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian’s support for the Standing Rock Sioux and their fight against the pipeline.
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy commented that she’s very much in favor of the letter and going forward with more support federally. “I think that’s another area where we can help. We have more lobbying power than the Sioux nations have. Some things are worth more to a human than a dollar. None of us can eat money. None of us can drink money. None of us can breathe money. Those things are important.”
Several EBCI tribal members have made the journey to the Sacred Stone Camp to bring supplies and lend their support to the protests. Gil Jackson, a Cherokee language speaker, was one of those to travel to North Dakota.
He told Council on Tuesday, “It is a very peaceful movement, and I want to emphasize that their elders are making decisions as to what goes on on a daily basis. It is a very peaceful, non-violent movement.”
Jackson added, “It is something that we need to be concerned about. Water is life, and we have to have water. It not only affects those folks in North Dakota and South Dakota, it will eventually affect us. It’s an issue worldwide. Big corporations, big money, are controlling not only our food and water, but the air we breathe, and it’s something that we need to be proactive on and not be waiting.”
Following the unanimous support for the resolution including the $50,000 donation, Vice Chief Sneed commented, “Today, you demonstrated why we are leaders in Indian Country. I had no idea or expected a move of that much. It’s impressive.”
He said he’d like to hand-carry the resolution and check to Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The SRST filed an Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sunday, Sept. 4. The filing stated that the restraining order was “to prevent further destruction of sacred and culturally significant sites near Lake Oahe, North Dakota”.
Chairman Archamault said that several sites were destroyed by Energy Transfer Partners workers. “This demolition is devastating. These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”
Tim Mentz, former SRST tribal historic preservation officer, stated, “I surveyed this land, and we confirmed multiple graves and specific prayer sites. Portions, and possibly complete sites, have been taken out entirely.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 6, Intervenor Dakota Access, LLC filed a response to the restraining order in which they state that Intervenor “is not destroying and has not destroyed any evidence or important historical sites”.
It goes on to state, “Intervenor has taken and continues to take every reasonable precaution (and more), well above any reasonable standard and greatly exceeding any regulatory requirement, to ensure that no sites will be or have been impacted.”
Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said that a decision on the tribe’s lawsuit to stop the construction is due by Friday, Sept. 9. “We’re days away from getting a resolution on the legal issues, and they came in on a holiday weekend and destroyed the site. What they have done is absolutely outrageous.”
For more information on the Sacred Stone Camp, visit: https://www.facebook.com/CampOfTheSacredStone/