Currents / 31 Aug
WASHINGTON – On August
29, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) sent a letter to
President Obama and Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army
(Civil Works) expressing the organizations official position on the
Dakota Access Pipeline.
“NCAI respectfully requests
that the Administration halt the Dakota Access Pipeline’s easement to
drill under Lake Oahe until the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s waters and
sacred places are protected,” stated Jacqueline Pata (Tlingit),
executive director, National Congress of American Indians.
In her letter, Pata
acknowledges the long history of the federal governments granting
construction of hazardous projects through tribal lands, waters and
cultural sites without including the tribes in the decision-making
According to the NCAI, the
Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act,
the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Rivers
and Harbors Act, and did not honor its federal trust responsibility to
“The issue of federal trust
responsibility to tribes is something NCAI is very concerned about. The
National Historic Preservation Act, section 106, clearly were not
followed, and is historically often ignored. The state of North Dakota
hired their own private archaeologists and worked only with their own
state agencies, rather than the federal government and ignored federal
laws. The tribes weren’t involved or consulted in the decision making.
The tribes are the only ones that know where the burial sites and sacred
sites are located,” explained Denise Desiderio, NCAI Policy Director.
The issue of non-consultation
with tribal governments by state governments and private corporations is
occurring across Indian Country. “It is the duty of Congress to be very
involved in oversight, in order to make sure the state governments are
following federal laws. They (the federal government) should be carrying
out oversight to make sure the laws are followed in the manner they were
intended”, said Ms. Desiderio.
National Congress of American Indians clearly feels that it is incumbent
upon the Obama administration to insure that the trust responsibility to
tribes is upheld. “We do find this situation strange, since President
Obama recently visited the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and commented
publicly about their situation.
He is very aware of the many
problems the tribe faces,” said Desiderio. “We are calling on his
administration to take a stand. The federal government and tribal
governments should be co-equals as sovereign governments.”
The level of support from other tribal nations for the Standing Rock
Sioux is unprecedented. “We have received 184 letter of support so far
from different tribes, and 75 resolutions have been passed so far by
various tribal governments over this issue. This proves the power of our
tribal strength when we all stand together–unified,” said Desiderio.
The NCAI will support the Standing Rock Sioux tribes decision regarding
any appeals to the ruling expected by September 9. They plan to continue
their work on congressional and administrative levels in order to
support all the tribes.