Emily Gruber | Standing Rock: Accomplishments and Ongoing Struggle

By Emily Gruber

“It’s not about money – it’s about our lives”[1]

Quick Facts about the Dakota Access Pipeline[2]

  • 1,172 miles
  • Runs from western North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois
  • $3.8 billion project
  • “Designed to carry approximately 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to oil marks in the United States.”[3]

Timeline – Recent Struggles and Accomplishments

July 27, 2016

  • Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.[4]
  • This suit argued that “the construction of the pipeline which runs within half a mile of its reservation in North and South Dakota, will destroy sites of cultural and historical significance.”[5]
  • It also claimed that “the Corps flouted its duty to engage in tribal consultations under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and that irreparable harm will ensue.”[6]

September 9, 2016

  • United States District Judge James E. Boasberg held that “the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.”[7]
  • The opinion argued that the “Corps has likely complied with the NHPA and that the Tribe has not shown it will suffer injury.”[8]

January 24, 2017

  • President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order “to revive the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines, another step in his effort to dismantle former president Barack Obama’s environmental legacy.”[9]
  • President Trump asserted, “I believe that construction and operation of lawfully permitted pipeline infrastructure serve the national interest.”[10]
  • In response, the Standing Rock Sioux chairman threatened legal retaliation. The chairman released the statement, “The Trump administration’s politically motivated decision violates the law and the Tribe will take legal action to fight it. We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Granting a second Flint does not make America great again.”[11]

February 23, 2017

  • The day after Governor Doug Burgum imposed an evacuation deadline, forty-six of the “final holdouts at the sprawling pipeline protest camp south of here were arrested.”[12]

March 10, 2017

  • Advocates of the Sioux community marched on Washington, D.C., protesting outside the White House and the Trump International Hotel.[13]

May 14, 2017

  • Interstate crude oil delivery commences for the Dakota Access Pipeline.[14]

February 21, 2018

  • The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe published a 313-page report entitled “Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline On the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”[15]
  • The Department of Water Resources, Department of Game and Fish, Tribal Emergency Management Commission, Environmental Protection/Department of Environmental Regulation, and Office of External Affairs collaborated with Chairman Mike Faith Jr. of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to compile this document. [16]
  • The report “challenged the adequacy of leak detection technology used by pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners,” “questioned the company’s worst-case spill estimate,” and “faulted Energy Transfer Partners for failing to provide a detailed emergency response plan to the tribe showing how the company would respond to an oil spill” among other concerns detailed later in this memo.[17]

March 8, 2018

  • A New York Times op-ed alerted that “the next Standing Rock” looms in Oregon.[18]
  • The scheduled demolition of the Klamath River dams by 2020 would also generate cultural damages, “contributing to climate change, desecrating grave sites, and trampling the traditional territory of the Klamath people.”[19]

April 6, 2018

  • On April 6, 2018, the press circulated news that the Dakota Access Pipeline developer, Energy Transfer Partners, “submitted a court-ordered spill response plan on April 2, 2018.”[20]
  • However, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe responded that “it wasn’t allowed adequate input in the plan.”[21]

 

Current Action and Ongoing Struggles

“#NODAPL” Hashtag

The “#NoDAPL,” “No Dakota Access Pipeline,” hashtag perseveres as the centerpiece of the Sioux community’s call to resist further intrusion in their cultural and environmental lives through the Dakota Access Pipeline. The continued use of this hashtag commemorates the Sioux accomplishment of harnessing social media to disseminate this message and mobilize support for rallies and marches.

Similar social media success transpired in 2016 as the Dakota Access Pipeline protests created Facebook pages to which all users could “check in” as a demonstration of support. The post became viral as over 100,000 Facebook users “checked in” to the Facebook page in solidarity.[22]

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Outlines Complaints

In February 2018, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Mike Faith collaborated with government agencies to publish Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.[23] Dr. Perry H. Rahn and Dr. Arden D. Davis of the South Dakota School of Mines also contributed to this report. Notable arguments forwarded in this report to the Army Corps of Engineers are included below.

  • “The Corps of Engineers must implement its Reservoir Simulation Model to determine the impacts of an oil spill under the divergent reservoir conditions.”[24]
  • “Subsistence hunting and fishing by Tribal members shall be adversely affected by an oil spill from DAPL.”[25]
  • “Significant impacts of an oil spill on wetlands, macroinvertebrates, shellfish, fish, birds and waterfowl, as well as on mammals and big game on the Standing Rock Reservation” including the national bird, the bald eagle.[26]
  • “The steep slope and unstable soils at the crossing have resulted in landslides in the past. Numerous landslides from previous slope failures have been mapped in the area.” – Dr. Rahn and Dr. Davis
  • “Pipeline shutdown times provided to regulators in Facility Response Plans for worst case discharge (WCD) calculations can be grossly inaccurate.”[27]
  • “Spill remediation can leave a significant volume of unrecovered crude oil with the potential for persistent threats to human health and the environment.”[28]
  • Threats to “culturally-significant and medicinal plants.”[29]
  • “Bakken crude oil is extremely flammable and can pose greater health and safety risks than heavier crude oil…Addressing the elevated hazards of Bakken crude in the risk assessment (spill consequences) and the dangers facing emergency responders is absolutely necessary to protect lives and the environment. The Corps of Engineers has failed to do so, however.”[30]
  • “DAPL’s worst case discharge (WCD) calculation lack any documented methodology or supporting data. DAPL’s informal WCD calculations take a “best case” approach and grossly underestimate the likely volume of Bakken crude oil released. This flaw underestimates the potential hazards from a release 92-feet or more under Lake Oahe.”[31]
  • “The DAPL WCD calculation 9-minute shutdown time limited to pump shutdown time is incomplete and grossly underestimates the WCD.”[32]
  • “A proper accounting of the actual cost borne by the Tribe is required under Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice.” [33]

Notable Readings from the Columbia Law School “Standing Ground/Standing Rock Readings” Website

http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/uprising1313/standing-groundstanding-rock-readings/

Ideological Proposals: Indigenous Sovereignty and Environmental Justice

http://items.ssrc.org/what-standing-rock-teaches-us-about-environmental-justice/

In her December 2017 “What Standing Rock Teaches Us About Environmental Justice,” Jaskiran Dhillon contended that this controversy conveys the urgency to cast environmental justice issues as “a struggle for Indigenous sovereignty.”[34] Dhillon’s three principal recommendations are summarized below.

     “Indigenous sovereignty is environmental justice”

The article advocated that the Dakota Access Pipeline “must be viewed as the most recent incarnation of environmental harm that has found its legitimation and footing in colonialism and occupation” to persuade politicians and activists to reevaluate the consequences. This recommendation found its roots in the review of “internal documents” that revealed that “police across at least five states” conspired with “the international mercenary security firm TigerSwan” to terminate Standing Rock’s resistance. 

     “Ending colonial gender violence is fundamental to environmental justice”

Inspired by the signs dispersed throughout Standing Rock that read “No More Stolen Sisters and Violence Against the Land is Violence Against Women,” Dhillon advised that activists cite gender violence as a leading risk of DAPL continuation. She interviewed Zaysha Grinnell, an Indigenous youth leader at Standing Rock, who explained, “When these oil companies come in, they bring in the men. These men bring with them the man camps, and with that comes violence and sex trafficking.”

     “Indigenous environmental justice defies a purely localized analysis”

Dhillon’s outline of the scope of similar crises suggests the possibility that an emphasis on the rampant nature of this crisis could persuade skeptics of Dakota Access Pipeline reform. She documented the “international attention and media coverage” directed on the “Sioux’s resistance efforts against the decimation of sacred burial sites, the ongoing encroachment of the US government and private corporations on Native land, and the contamination of the Missouri River.” Moreover, Dhillon cited similar environmental and climate justice movements in Cambodia, Ratanakiri, and Ecuador.

 

NYC Stands for Standing Rock

https://nycstandswithstandingrock.wordpress.com/standingrocksyllabus/

The perseverance demonstrated by Standing Rock’s Sioux community inspires national activism as evidenced by “NYC Stands for Standing Rock.[35] This committee consists of “indigenous scholars, activists, and settler/POC supporters” affiliated with the Tlingit, Peoria, Dine, Maya Kaqchikel, and Quechua Indigenous communities. The understanding that “while our primary goal is to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, we recognize that Standing Rock is one frontline of many around the world” galvanized its principal project.[36] More specifically, the organization constructed a syllabus with historical and legal information regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy and its implications on Indigenous sovereignty. This syllabus seeks both to educate the public and to increase transparency about “research usually kept behind paywalls.” It features key terms, timelines, maps, and bibliography. Additionally, on November 3, 2016, the committee organized a “Teach In at Columbia” that implemented the syllabus and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQ_5wIGtI8pXS96cSmrimep-67s0KwfjI.

  

“Fighting for Our Lives: #NoDAPL in Historical Context”

https://therednation.org/2016/09/18/fighting-for-our-lives-nodapl-in-context/

Nick Estes situated the Standing Rock conflict in its historical context in this September 18, 2016 article.[37] His argument distilled to the following crucial points that communicate the urgency for the resolution of the Standing Rock crisis.

  1. “The North Dakota National Guard” has never in its history been deployed in force against an unarmed “domestic” population – until now.”
  2. “The prayer camp has galvanized multinational unity, primarily mobilizing everyday people in defense of Native sovereignty, self-determination, and treaty rights.”
  3. “Treaty rights, and by default Native sovereignty, protect everyone’s rights. In this case, they protect a vital fresh water source for millions – the Missouri River.”
  4. “#NoDAPL anti-colonial struggle is profoundly anti-capitalist.”
  5. “The profits that corporations like Energy Transfer Corporation reap from colonial projects like the DAPL should be seized and used to repair damage to the land and river.”

 

 

NOTES

[1] S. Romero. Interview. In J. Choi, “Native Americans march to White House against Dakota Access Pipeline.” USA Today (March 10, 2017). https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/03/10/native-nations-march-dakota-pipeline-protest-white-house/99015850/.

[2] “The Controversial Dakota Access Pipeline Will Start Interstate Oil Delivery on May 14.” Fortune. April 14, 2017. http://fortune.com/2017/04/14/dakota-access-pipeline-interstate-delivery/.

[3] Donald J. Trump. “Memorandum for the Secretary of the Army: Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.” (January 24, 2017). The White House Office of the Press Secretary. PDF. Accessed: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/01/trumps-dakota-access-pipeline-memo-what-we-know-right-now/514271/.

[4] Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (July 27, 2016). “Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief” (PDF). In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (1:16-cv-01534-Document 1).

[5] “Memorandum Opinion.” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (September 9, 2016). PDF, 1.

[6] “Memorandum Opinion.” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (September 9, 2016). PDF, 1.

[7] “Memorandum Opinion.” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (September 9, 2016). PDF, 58.

[8] “Memorandum Opinion.” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (September 9, 2016). PDF, 1.

[9] J. Eilperin and S. Mufson. “Trump seeks to revive Dakota Access, Keystone XL oil pipelines.” The Washington Post January 24, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/01/24/trump-gives-green-light-to-dakota-access-keystone-xl-oil-pipelines/?utm_term=.6b6d09630341.

[10] Donald J. Trump. “Memorandum for the Secretary of the Army: Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.” (January 24, 2017). The White House Office of the Press Secretary. PDF. Accessed: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/01/trumps-dakota-access-pipeline-memo-what-we-know-right-now/514271/.

[11] P. Alexander. “Trump Signs Orders Advancing Keystone, Dakota Access Pipelines.” NBC News (January 24, 2017). https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-sign-orders-advancing-keystone-dakota-access-pipelines-n711321.

[12] M. Smith. “Standing Rock Protest Camp, Once Home to Thousands, Is Razed.” New York Times (New York, NY), February 23, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/us/standing-rock-protest-dakota-access-pipeline.html.

[13] “Protesters gather in D.C. to march against Dakota Access Pipeline.” The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), March 10, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/protesters-gather-in-dc-to-march-against-dakota-access-pipeline/2017/03/10/06acd348-05cf-11e7-9d14-9724d48f5666_video.html?utm_term=.a2bc7e602a37.

[14] “The Controversial Dakota Access Pipeline Will Start Interstate Oil Delivery on May 14.” Fortune. April 14, 2017. http://fortune.com/2017/04/14/dakota-access-pipeline-interstate-delivery/.

[15] Mike Faith Jr. and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.” February 21, 2018. PDF. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/09032018/dakota-access-oil-pipeline-leak-detection-technology-standing-rock-water-safety-energy-transfer-partners

[16] Ibid.

[17] Standingrock.org. “Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Mike Faith Pushes Back Against DAPL False Claims.” Standingrock.org. March 9, 2018. https://www.standingrock.org/content/standing-rock-sioux-tribal-chairman-mike-faith-pushes-back-against-dapl-false-claims.

[18] D. Gentry and E. Morris. “The Next Standing Rock? A Pipeline Battle Looms in Oregon.” New York Times (New York, NY), March 8, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/08/opinion/standing-rock-pipeline-oregon.html.

[19]Ibid.

[20] B. Nicholson. “Dakota Access Pipeline Developer Submits Spill Response Plan.” Washington Post (Washington D.C.), April 6, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/dakota-access-pipeline-developer-submits-spill-response-plan/2018/04/06/965910e0-39bf-11e8-af3c-2123715f78df_story.html?utm_term=.04ed8a01ac35.

[21] Ibid.

[22] J. Wordland. “How Activists Are Using Facebook Check-In to Help Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters.” Time. October 31, 2016. http://time.com/4551866/facebook-dakota-access-pipeline-check-in/.

[23] Standingrock.org. “Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Mike Faith Pushes Back Against DAPL False Claims.” Standingrock.org. March 9, 2018. https://www.standingrock.org/content/standing-rock-sioux-tribal-chairman-mike-faith-pushes-back-against-dapl-false-claims.

[24] Mike Faith Jr. and Standing Rock SIoux Tribe. “Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.” February 21, 2018. PDF. 1.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid, 7.

[27] Ibid, 2.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid, 7.

[30] Ibid, 2.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid, 3.

[33] Ibid.

[34] J. Dhillon. “What Standing Rock Teaches Us About Environmental Justice.” Insights from the Social Sciences. December 5, 2017. http://items.ssrc.org/what-standing-rock-teaches-us-about-environmental-justice/.

[35] NYC Stands with Standing Rock. https://nycstandswithstandingrock.wordpress.com/about/.

[36] NYC Stands with Standing Rock. https://nycstandswithstandingrock.wordpress.com/standingrocksyllabus/.

[37] N. Estes. “Fighting for Our Lives: #NoDAPL in Historical Context.” The Red Nation, September 18, 2016. https://therednation.org/2016/09/18/fighting-for-our-lives-nodapl-in-context/.

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