Last week, news broke that developer Energy Transfer Partners received final approval from the Army to lay pipe under the Missouri River in North Dakota, which is the final portion of construction for the 1,200-mile pipeline.
Devastation followed for American Indian tribal members and activists alike, but their mourning was followed with vows that they will do everything in their power to retract the approval, including a Native Nations march on Washington, scheduled for March 10th.
Speaking to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Standing Rock Tribal Chair Leader Dave Archambault II said:
I think this march is very important, because we need to start focusing on more, because I believe that Donald Trump is going to start attacking all of our rights, all of our treaty rights. Not just this one pipeline is going to be the issue. We’re going to have to start battling for our law enforcement, our education, our healthcare. All of these things are going to be under attack. So, having this march is building awareness on—for this nation that our indigenous people are still here, and we’re not going anywhere, and we’re going to be here. And we are the first occupants of these lands. We are the ones who—like, President Trump is having this issue with immigrants. He’s an immigrant himself. He’s occupying our lands, and he’s setting—breaking the rules and the laws, the federal laws, that keep people safe. So we need to build awareness about that. And we need to come to D.C. and let the world know who are the first occupants and that we are not going anywhere, and we’re going to be here for the next four years, if not sooner, if we—this president is not good for this nation.
Two American Indian tribes have also asked a federal judge to stop construction of the final portion of the four-state Dakota Access pipeline. Their argument includes a religious freedom claim, saying it would harm their cultural sites and water supply. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., will hear the arguments Monday afternoon.
“The Corps has authorized activities under Lake Oahe that will substantially burden the tribe’s free exercise of religious rituals that depend on the purity of water from the river,” said Standing Rock attorney Jan Hasselman.
In response, Energy Transfer Partners’ attorneys filed court documents early Monday requesting Judge Boasberg to reject the tribes’ request, claiming that the new religious freedom argument component is “exceedingly tardy,” ”not construction-related” and a “last-minute delay tactic.”
An attorney for the company, William Scherman, said: “Dakota Access has the greatest respect for the religious beliefs and traditions of (tribes). The emergency relief sought here simply is not necessary to protect the exercise of those beliefs or preserve those traditions.”
The Corps, whose involvement in the construction stems from its engineering branch’s management of the river and its system of hydroelectric dams, also filed additional documents Monday saying that a work stoppage isn’t warranted because the tribes have plenty of time to present their case before oil begins flowing from the pipeline.
The drilling work is anticipated to span two months, with the full pipeline system capable of being operational within three months.
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Energy Transfer Partners claims the pipeline is safer than other methods of moving oil, such as by train or truck. The company also urges that the cultural sites have not been affected, despite thousands of protestors coming to the aid of the tribes last year in solidarity.
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