Have you heard yet about the latest twist in the sham of an environmental review process for the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL)? A couple weeks ago, I and other Standing Rock officials attended two days of hearings hosted in Bismarck, N.D. by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps said this would be an opportunity for tribal leaders and others to provide public feedback on DAPL’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). That wasn’t exactly accurate.
Though some of us were able to bring concerns to the table, the meetings seemed geared toward minimizing the impact of feedback from everyone who showed up to stop this illegal pipeline. At Wednesday morning’s meeting with tribal officials, the Corps initially excluded leaders including our Game and Fish director. Still, we provided important testimony, which you can see in the latest chapter of our Dakota Water Wars video series, produced in partnership with the Lakota People’s Law Project and the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance.
Watch: I address the Army Corps about DAPL’s imminent threat to our people.
The first day’s proceedings were just plain undemocratic; there’s no other term for it. Army Corps Omaha District Chief of Operations Sheila Newman admitted the Corps doesn’t plan to treat all comments submitted online as equally valid. Then, that evening, public testimony was hidden behind curtains, failing to give the mostly Native audience the opportunity to interact in a genuine way with the Corps and one another. The fact that these meetings were held in Bismarck and not on the reservation also limited attendance and seemed intentionally designed to silence our voices.
I’m happy to say that when water protectors outside realized what was happening, they took matters into their own hands. Many spoke on a bullhorn, and a rally was born, which generated a story about our outrage in the Associated Press. After that, the Corps received our message. On day two, they didn’t limit attendance, and they provided a microphone so members of the public could speak freely.
Unfortunately, our main takeaway from the two days is that the Corps is still not taking us seriously. The lack of transparency at the public hearings is an extension of what we’ve been dealing with since the start, including the redaction of important information in several reports and safety plans. We also have evidence that the pipeline operator illegally destroyed Lakota sacred sites, but the Corps has done nothing about it. That’s why we have to keep fighting. If you have not yet sent your comment demanding the Corps shut down DAPL, please do so today.
Mni Wiconi. Water is life!
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
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