As a last resort to protect their sacred burial and prayer sites, North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux filed a temporary restraining order late Sunday to prevent further construction of the new Dakota Access Pipeline. According to the tribe, this construction has already devastated much of their sacred land.
“On Saturday, Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners brazenly used bulldozers to destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts,” said tribal chairman David Archambault II in a press statement.
“They did this on a holiday weekend, one day after we filed court papers identifying these sacred sites,” Archambault added. “The desecration of these ancient places has already caused the Standing Rock Sioux irreparable harm. We’re asking the court to halt this path of destruction.”
After being attacked by the security teams hired by the pipeline construction company fast action was needed. The security team and their use of vicious dogs along with mace prompted rapid protection.
A Facebook post wrote by Linda Black Elk on Sunday stated that it is clear that the company is attempting to “provoke” the peaceful protesters to “violence”.
Black Elk wrote: “Just to recap: On Friday, the Standing Rock Nation filed papers challenging Dakota Access permits from the Army Corps of Engineers’… because in a recent survey of the area, the tribe found many incredibly sacred sites, including burial sites, directly in the path of the proposed pipeline. The tribe had never been allowed to survey these areas before, so they hadn’t been able to document these sites.
Today, barely 24 hours after those papers were filed, Dakota Access used bulldozers to destroy those sites. It was absolute destruction. They literally bulldozed the ancestors right out of the ground, along with destroying tipi rings and cairns. They did all of this while assaulting peaceful resistors using vicious dogs, tear gas, and pepper spray.”
“There’s only one conclusion,” Black Elk added, “they are attempting to provoke us to violence.”
The protest which has been going on for weeks against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has drawn thousands of people to protest. Representatives from over 200 tribes have traveled, and after being first ignored by the media, they have finally gained increasing attention from corporate media as well. Currently, a federal judge is trying to decide whether or not to completely halt the construction. This was prompted by a complaint that the tribe filed arguing that the U.S Army Corps of Engineers approved the construction without consent. A decision is to be expected on Sept 9.
“The Tribe has been seeking to vindicate its rights peacefully through the courts. But Dakota Access Pipeline used evidence submitted to the Court as their roadmap for what to bulldoze. That’s just wrong,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux.
“Destroying the Tribe’s sacred places over a holiday weekend, while the judge is considering whether to block the pipeline, shows a flagrant disregard for the legal process,” Hasselman added.
LaDonna Bravebull Allard, historic preservation office for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Section 106, noted in a piece published at YES! Magazine that “Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers,” the Cannonball and the Missouri. “It is a historic trading ground,” Bravebull Allard wrote, “a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.”
Continuing, she pointed out how a legacy of cultural destruction is being furthered by the United States government, in its blatant disrespect for the sacred sites of the indigenous tribes belonging to the area.
“The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people,” she continued. “These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.”
Finally, she posed the question: “If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?”
As the protest has gone on, the Standing Rock Sioux have stood by their beliefs and sacred lands. They have gained more and more attention from the media and have gathered supporters including additional protesters, as well as legal assistance. Despite the fact that they have been so horribly wronged, they continue to fight. In the upcoming days, while we wait for the federal court’s decision, we can only hope that humanity stands up for what is right, and what is sacred to the indigenous people who have protected that land for centuries.