The fight is endless. Indian Nations have standing treaties with the United States Federal Government, protecting their lands and ancestral grounds and providing assurances for self-governance among other things. They are not subject to state law. Tell that to the states. For more than 100 years, the Indian Nations across America have been forced to fight costly legal battles on a multitude of fronts often against the states their reservations exist on.
Forcing a people to endlessly defend their treaty rights up to Federal Court saps funds that could otherwise be used to build desperately needed infrastructure, improved housing, education and basic human services in some of the poorest places in America. Instead of allowing them to use their resources to better ends, we force battles that put the children’s bread in the hands of lawyers.
The latest front in this ongoing war is the development of a pipeline from the Bakken Oil fields in North Dakota southeast to Illinois. Indian Nations have already successfully fought to keep this pipeline off their lands in Minnesota. Tribes in North and South Dakota are now taking up the fight to protect their treaty rights and precious resources. Impacting this case directly are environmental threats to the Missouri River, the only supply of water feeding the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. The original proposed route of the pipeline would have crossed the Missouri River 10 miles north of Bismark, the capital of the state of North Dakota. It was rejected on the grounds of potential threats to that area’s water supply. The current dig is occurring just one half mile from the Standing Rock Reservation. The hypocrisy is staggering. An oil spill here would devastate this group of people. The current dig also traverses ancestral burial grounds of the Sioux, threatening destruction of an area that has deep spiritual and archaeological significance.
If you take the time to watch the videos below and are put off by the protests, ask yourself what you would do if someone showed up threatening your property or resources with a bulldozer, biting dogs and pepper spray. These protests aim to stop work until the cases have a chance to be heard in Federal Court.
Unfortunately, the battle over the Dakota Pipeline is simply another of the myriad of variations of endlessly and pointlessly convoluted muck indigenous groups must trudge through to protect their rights and interests in America. The lawyers are happy. The children go hungry.
Words and Photography ©2016 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me
Note: Thanks to Dermott Hayes for drawing my attention to this story. I’ll be updating this on Monday. A decision regarding this case is scheduled for later today (9/9/16) in Federal Court.