The fight against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) approaches a critical point in federal court. Although the camps that were home to thousands of water protectors are now closed, Dakota Access has begun to drill under Lake Oahe. Earlier this week the company told the federal judge it expects that the pipeline will be complete and ready to flow oil anywhere between March 13 and April 1, 2017. If this pipeline is completed and allowed to flow oil, when it breaks (and it will, as all man made objects do) it will destroy the only source of clean water for some 14,000 residents of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s homelands are located just 60 miles down the shoreline of Lake Oahe from Standing Rock. 19th-century gold mining polluted the reservation’s other rivers, so the 14,000 people who live on the reservation must rely exclusively on the clean waters of Lake Oahe for their drinking, cooking, bathing, agricultural, and religious needs. They need the sacred, pure waters of Lake Oahe to practice their Lakota religious ceremonies. For the people of Cheyenne River the water in Lake Oahe truly is life: “Mni Wiconi.”
Throughout the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has been the “silent sister” of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The bands of Lakota Sioux who now make up the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe were several of the original signatories to the Treaty of 1851 between the Great Sioux Nation and the US government. That treaty guaranteed the Great Sioux Nation the undisturbed use of the lands and water where the Dakota Access Pipeline is now being routed.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is an 1,100 mile crude oil pipeline being built from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois. It crosses the ancestral homelands of several Native American Nations, including the Great Sioux Nation. The pipeline is over 90% complete, except for the crossing at Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. If completed, the underwater crossing at Lake Oahe will be the largest underwater crossing of a freshwater body in the entire world. Despite repeated requests by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and several federal agencies for a more intensive environmental review of the project, in late July 2016 the US Army Corps of Engineers granted Dakota Access the necessary permits to lay a 30” diameter pipeline under the Lake.
Because the pipeline will permanently harm the clean sacred waters of Lake Oahe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court in the DC Circuit last August to stop construction of the pipeline. Since August 2016 the Tribe, alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has been deploying its lawyer warriors to fight the legal battle. The Tribe is using two legal strategies to stop the pipeline: It filed an emergency motion to stop construction based on religious freedom laws, and it is also raising treaty and environmental arguments in a separate motion. Both motions are currently pending in front of Judge Boasberg in the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, and the Tribe expects the legal battle to heat up in the coming weeks if the pipeline is not stopped before then.
All contributions made to this campaign will be used by the government of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to offset the costs of hiring attorneys and expert witnesses in the case.
Contributions made may be tax deductible per 26 USC 7871, “Donations to Tribal Governments.”
Humbly, we say “pilamayaye”, or “thank you” in Lakota, for your contribution.
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