On Monday, the Department of the Army announced their denial of the final easement of the Dakota Access Pipeline project under Lake Oahe, stating: "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." To the protestors recently numbering more than 2,000, this decision is a great victory at the Standing Rock site; however, their fight may be far from over.
The announcement comes after months of litigation, protests, and at times violence, over the completion of the DAPL project. On the recent Sunday evening of November 20th, 400 protesters collided with police, leading to the hospitalization of many protesters. Police deployed tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons in freezing temperatures. One protester, a 21 year old woman, may lose her arm after suffering an injury from a small explosion, the origin of which is unconfirmed.
So what is the Dakota Access Pipeline and why the ardent protests?
According to the company charged with its completion, Energy Transfer Partners, the Dakota Access Pipeline is an underground crude oil pipeline designed to transport 470,000 barrels per day from North Dakota to Illinois. This $3.8 billion project consists of building a 1,172-mile pipeline crossing through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The United States imports half of the oil we consume per day, and the DAPL will transport domestically produced crude oil to support U.S. consumers' demands. The intended benefits include: every barrel produced in the U.S. displaces an imported barrel of foreign oil, which will help decrease our dependence on energy from unstable regions of the world; improved safety to the public and environment as pipelines are safer and more efficient than trucks or trains; and providing more rail capacity and ease transportation shortages for agriculture and other industries.
Protesters argue the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline will fuel climate change, disturb sacred lands of Native Americans, and damage the environment along with possibly contaminating water supplies, such as the Missouri and Cannon Ball Rivers.
On July 27, 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting a preliminary injunction stopping the construction of the pipeline. Click here to access the official complaint.
On September 9, 2016, a federal judge denied the Standing Rock Sioux' request for an injunction. However, he acknowledged the "United States' relationship with the Indian tribes has been contentious and tragic." View the memorandum opinion issued September 9, 2016 through your Fastcase Premium subscription by clicking here. United States District Judge James E. Boasbery cites Cobell v. Norton (240 F.3d 1081) noting, "America's expansionist impulse in its formative years led to the removal and relocation of many tribes, often by treaty but also by force."
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The controversial Dakota Access Pipeline passes through land which was once set aside for the Sioux Indian tribe by the U.S. Government in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. You may access the Treaty of Fort Laramie, 1851 by clicking here. This treaty is included in Indian Affairs, Laws and Treaties compiled by Charles J. Kappler, which includes Indian treaties from 1778 through 1871. This title is included in our U.S. Treaties and Agreements, American Indian Law Collection, and World Treaty Libraries:
The Dakota Access Pipeline is not the first infringement on promised Sioux tribal lands. Due to the discovery of gold in the Missouri River, there was an influx of settlers in the area. In 1868, the negotiators of the 1851 treaty reconvened and established a new treaty with a much smaller territory, known as the Great Sioux Reservation.
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Regardless of the Great Sioux Reservation treaty, Congress passed the Act of February 28, 1877 (19 Stat. 254), which ceded the Black Hills without tribal approval. Congress also passed the Dawes Act of 1887 (24 Stat. 388), which broke up communal Indian lands into family holdings and then the Act of March 2, 1889 (25 Stat. 888), which further partitioned the Great Sioux Reservation into smaller reservations.
On June 30, 1980, the Sioux were awarded more than $100 million by the Supreme Court in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians (448 U.S. 371). To view the entire Supreme Court case, enter the citation under the case law tab in any page of the HeinOnline database. Click the magnifying glass icon to view.
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As of today, the tribe has refused payment of the original $100 million trust, which has now grown to more than $1 billion, in hopes of receiving their sacred lands.
The controversy over the Dakota Access Pipeline will continue with ongoing legal implications in the coming months. Do you support the Dakota Access Pipeline project? Click here to cast your vote in this online poll.
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