NIGA Member Tribes
Chairman Ernest L. Stevens Jr.
Jason C. Giles, Executive Director
Danielle Her Many Horses, Deputy Executive Director/General Counsel
Stand with Standing Rock
January 26, 2017
On January 24, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Memorandum calling for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Memorandum calls for the completion of the pipeline in an expeditious manner, but also states that the pipeline must be completed within the bounds of existing law. Working under the current law can potentially work in the Tribe's favor.
Previous efforts to prevent the construction of the pipeline led to the Army Corps of Engineers publishing a Notice of Intent to Prepare and Environmental Impact Statement in the January 18, 2017 Federal Register. While it is unclear at this time how the Memorandum will affect the Environmental Impact Statement process, it is imperative that we continue to engage with the Army Corps of Engineers. NIGA encourages our Member Tribes to submit comments on the Environmental Impact Statement. Comments can be submitted via email to Mr. Gib Owen, at firstname.lastname@example.org. If emailing comments, please use "NOI Comments, Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing" as the subject of your email. Specifically, input is desired on the three scoping concerns:
(1) Alternative locations for the pipeline crossing the Missouri River;
(2) Potential risks and impacts of an oil spill, and potential impacts to Lake Oahe, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's water intakes, and the Tribe's water, treaty fishing, and hunting rights; and
(3) Information on the extent and location of the Tribe's treaty rights in Lake Oahe.
In addition to the Army Corps of Engineers scoping process, it is equally important to register Indian Country's concerns with the pipeline to our Members of Congress. A model letter is attached for your use.
Please contact Danielle Her Many Horses, Deputy Executive Director at email@example.com with any questions or concerns you may have.
The Honorable ____________
Washington DC 20510
The Honorable ____________
US House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515
On behalf of the ________ Tribe, I write to express our concerns with the Dakota Access Pipeline, specifically that the United States' treaties and laws must be upheld in regard to the pipeline.
When an Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) project will impact Indian treaty rights, congressional authorization is required if the impacts are more than de minimis. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and other Sioux Nation tribes, have treaty water, hunting, fishing and riparian rights in the Missouri River under the 1851 Treaty with the Sioux, etc. and the 1868 Sioux Nation Treaty. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) would have serious, long reaching impacts on the Missouri River, from which the Sioux Nation tribes and non-Indian neighbors in North and South Dakota draw drinking water. The US Supreme Court in Winters v. US (1908) determined that Indian tribes have reserved water rights to water sources on and bordering their Reservation. The Sioux Nation tribes, under Winters, own the water in the Missouri River and have a right to a clean flow of water and protection of their "permanent homes."
On December 4, 2016, the ACOE denied the DAPL easement across the Missouri River at the present proposed site, and determined that an Environmental Impact Statement was warranted, inter alia, to study the impact on Sioux Nation treaty and water rights.
On December 5, 2016, a five-inch oil pipeline broke along Ash Coulee Creek, a tributary to the Little Missouri River 150 miles upstream of DAPL, spilling 175,000 gallons of oil into the creek and an adjacent hillside before a local rancher discovered it. Benzene was released into the waters, livestock died as a result of the spill, and the harsh North Dakota winter has hampered clean up efforts. The oil spill was caused by a landslide and evaded oil pipeline monitoring systems. This experience proves the December 4, 2016 ACOE decision to be correct and significant for public health.
On January 24, 2017, President Trump issued and Executive Memorandum on the Dakota Access Pipeline, directing the ACOE to expedite the review and approval of DAPL consistent with the law and existing property rights. The National Environmental Protection Act cannot be circumvented by Executive order, so the DAPL Executive memorandum declares that the ACOE expedited review must continue to be conducted in accordance with existing applicable law.
A full and fair consideration of DAPL environmental concerns is warranted and property owners, including the Sioux Nation tribes, must be consulted as stakeholders in the environmental review. Please remind the Administration that the Constitution requires respect for Indian treaty rights and adherence to the environmental laws, and call upon the ACOE to continue forward with the Environmental Impact Statement process for DAPL as required by law.
As the Sioux Nation tribes say, Mni Wiconi-Water is life. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.