To: David Archambault II
Chair, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council
Dear Sir and Brother,
The leadership of the Council for First Inhabitants Rights and Equality (Council FIRE) stand in unanimous support of the Standing Rock Sioux, their right to speak for themselves and to demand that treaties signed between the sovereign nations of the United States of America and the Sioux be honored and enforced. As Brothers and Sisters in the battle, we cannot sit idle. When one nation is in need, all nations must rise to defend what is most vital to future generations. People, native and non-native alike, are called to lift their prayers and fight to protect the water, the future will judge each of us on how we acted in this attack on sovereignty and Mother Earth.
Council FIRE calls for the cessation of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline that encroaches on land and water that has long been granted to the Standing Rock Sioux through multiple treaties. We demand an end to the illegal trespassing, desecration of sacred sites, hostile attacks, violations of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties, the 1899 Fort Belknap treaty, as well as the 1908 Winters Doctrine of the United States Supreme Court. These treaties are no less valid that those the US Government has signed with Japan or Germany, or any other Supreme Court decision – it is long past time that this nation honor its’ word.
It hurts our heart to know that the Army Corps of Engineers vetoed the pipelines original path, because it was too dangerous to the water supply near the population of Bismarck – Council FIRE agrees with the Army Corps, that the pipeline is too dangerous. However, we are concerned that the Corps doesn’t have the same level of concern over the danger being inflicted upon Native people, and the seventeen Million others who live downstream and depend on the Missouri River for their fresh water.
The Corps negotiated the pipeline details with Texas-based Energy Transfers in violation of treaty law, but this is nothing new to the Army Corps. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Corps, working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, constructed over 100 dams on Native treaty territory. These dams flooded 611,642 acres, mostly Native land that forced the removal of 600 Native families. At Standing Rock, the Corps continues to violate Native water rights which prohibits altering the flow of rivers or the selling of water rights within original Native treaty territory even if that territory has been diminished.
The central location in this defense of tribal lands and waters – Lake Oahe – did not even exist until the 1960s, when the federal government created the Oahe dam without the consent of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The dam flooded over 200,000 acres of the tribes’ lands, forcing people from their homes, submerging towns, and destroying critical natural resources, burial sites, and sacred places.
Bakken oil and gas production, has already devastated many Native and non-Native communities, leaving the land and water dead. Meanwhile, people and the planet suffer, and the temporary influx of jobs decline while the land becomes more unlivable. As the history of greed has proven, the public and vulnerable Native communities pay for the cleanup and contamination when — not if — the pipeline breaks. The stakes are too high, it is not a question of when our next generations will suffer, it is a question of when and how bad will it be.
There are 2.5 million miles of pipeline crisscrossing the U.S., managed by hundreds of different operators. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the federal agency responsible for enforcing regulations related to pipelines, reports that over the past thirty years there have been nearly 8,000 pipeline incidents. These disasters have resulted in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and Billions of dollars in damages. They further report that spills over that time have averaged 76,000 barrels per year (200 barrels every day), with an annual average of 31,500 barrels remaining on the ground and in the water after cleanup.
Even with new pipeline construction technology, this could happen anywhere across the 1,172 miles of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
As Native people, protecting our ancestral lands and territories, waters and other resources is central to who we are. We are as deserving as any people of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We call on all people to demand an end to the theft and desecration of ancestral lands, it can no longer be accepted that our rights as humans are denied because of our skin and heritage.
Council FIRE is a non-profit / public charity, and sits as the recognized voice for native issues within the AFL-CIO. We are proud to stand alongside many Labor Unions and Constituency groups who demand recognition of treaty rights and sovereignty.
We stand with the Standing Rock Sioux in this fight to protect their children, their tribal sovereignty, natural resources, cultural heritage and sacred places. We pray for a peaceful solution that ends the centuries of disregard for Native treaties and denial of basic respect we are due.
Council for First Inhabitants Rights and Equality
Founder and President