Bolstered by court victory, Standing Rock held talks today with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about DAPL’s future

Other important Indigenous victories from around the country and the world

From the Southwest United States, to Australia, to Mexico, to the Dakotas, Indigenous people have had significant victories this year. The State of Minnesota should pay notice.

Dakota Access Pipeline victory

Talks began today between Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, U.S. Army officials, and other leaders from across the Great Sioux Nation regarding the future of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), KELO Radio, Sioux Falls, SD reported.

The talks follow a significant U.S. Supreme Court victory for Standing Rock last month.

Back in 2020, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled that the stretch of DAPL that runs under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Reservation required a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS.) He chose not to shut down DAPL, leaving that decision to U.S. executive branch. So far, the Biden Administration has not taken any action.

Energy Transfer Partners appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn Boasberg’s ruling.

The Biden administration opposed Energy Transfer’s appeal, siding with Standing Rock.

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Boasberg’s decision.

Standing Rock issued a media release on the upcoming talks:

According to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairwoman Janet Alkire, the stakeholders will discuss the embattled pipeline’s future, including its delayed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). “I am very excited about meeting alongside the other tribes of the Great Sioux Nation to address the Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works on Wednesday,” Alkire says. “It’s long overdue.” …

Standing Rock officials say they expected the Army Corps of Engineers to release the EIS for public feedback in February. Anticipating that release, Standing Rock, Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal leaders — citing concerns about Energy Resources Management, the firm tasked with preparing the EIS — wrote a letter demanding an alternative EIS with oversight from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Then, in January, Standing Rock withdrew as a cooperating agency from the environmental review process entirely.

Alkire released press statements expressing concern about a lack of transparency in the process, dangers from low water levels in Lake Oahe — a reservoir adjacent to her reservation, which the pipeline crosses beneath — and DAPL’s potentially inadequate emergency response plan.

Pending the opportunity to gather more feedback from tribes today, the Army Corps of Engineers still hasn’t released its EIS for public comment. Army officials reached out to Standing Rock and asked for the meeting.

The meeting took place at Prairie Knights Casino on Standing Rock’s North Dakota side.

“You’re not Indigenous enough” argument doesn’t fly in Mexico’ Supreme Court

The Mexican Supreme Court canceled a controversial mining project this year that Indigenous peoples have fought for decades, Indian Country Today reported. (Mongabay.com first wrote the story Feb. 18.)

The lawsuit claimed that the “prior consultation” process — in which Indigenous communities are supposed to be informed of a project before giving their consent — was never done. Mexico signed the international treaty for prior consultation in 1990 and has since made its own laws to guarantee the treaty is properly applied.

Mexican officials tried to force the mining project through using a familiar and tired argument, a variation of the blood quantum rule. The Secretariat of Economy argued the communities opposing the project “were not Indigenous enough to need prior consultation,” Mongabay.com reported.

That argument failed.

“Divide and Conquer” strategy doesn’t fly with Australian government

In another case regarding free, prior, and informed consent, the Australian government rejected a bid by Glencore, a multinational mining company, “to destroy an ancient stone tools quarry so it can expand its McArthur River mine,” National Indigenous Times reported on Feb. 18.

The company has been told it must go back to the so-called Traditional Owners for consent for the project, which would double the size of the zinc and lead mine near Borroloola, about 125 miles from the Queensland border, National Indigenous Times reported.

(Recall that Glencore is the multinational company pushing for the PolyMet Mine in northern Minnesota.)

In Australia, Glencore used a familiar and tired argument to try to disenfranchise Indigenous rights by the divide and conquer method.

“Glencore said it had an agreement from six Aboriginal custodians, to whom it promised cars, food and fuel vouchers and $250,000 for housing,” the story said. “The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority rejected the agreement, however, because about 180 custodians had not signed it.”

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan could take some lessons here. They issued an executive order promising meaningful consultation with Native Nations inside Minnesota’s borders, but failed to follow through on major decisions around the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.

$1.7 billion water rights settlement for Native Nations in Southwest United States

In other news, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) announced a $1.7 billion settlement in a water rights case involving several Native Nations in the Southwestern United States, Indian Country Today reported.

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1908 that tribes have rights to as much water as they need to establish a permanent homeland, and those rights stretch back at least as long as any given reservation has existed, As a result, tribal water rights often are more senior to others in the West, where competition over the scarce resource is fierce.”

Native Nations have had to sue for these water rights, a long and costly undertaking. They often turn to out-of-court settlements.

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