By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
On Wednesday, September 7, Oklahoma Native American leaders along with representatives of several environmental groups and religious organizations will hold a press conference in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL).
The event will be held at Church of the Open Arms UCC, 3131 N. Penn. Ave., Oklahoma City at 12:30 p.m.
DAPL is a $3.8 billion oil pipeline scheduled to run through four states, including South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
Issues to be discussed include the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s resistance to the pipeline construction, protection of the Missouri River water supply; resisting further development of fossil fuels, and protection of endangered species in the pipeline’s path.
According to a press release, some 200 Native American Tribes and Nations have already formally expressed solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, who have been actively resisting construction of the DAPL.
Dozens of national environmental groups have pledged support for the pipeline resistance actions. Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace and others believe that fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – must be left in the ground, and be replaced by clean energy sources like solar and wind.
Religious denominations including the United Church of Christ USA, the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota, and the Anglican Church of Canada have expressed their support for the pipeline resistance.
Speakers attending the Oklahoma City press conference include Casey Camp-Horinek, Oklahoma Ponca Tribe Leader; Chebon Kernell, Native American Liaison to Oklahoma United Methodist Conference; Rev. Jesse Jackson, E. 6th St. Christian Church, Disciples of Christ; Alecia Onzahwah, Cleveland County Pipeline Resistance; Rev. Kayla Bonewell, Church of the Open Arms, United Church of Christ; Johnson Bridgwater, Director, Oklahoma Chapter of Sierra Club; Rev. Mark Davies, President, Board of Church & Society, United Methodist Conference of Oklahoma; Rev. Jim Stovall, Chair, Environmental Committee, OK Conference of Churches; and Pat Hoerth, Chair, Environmental Committee, Oklahoma United Methodist Conference.
Nathaniel Batchelder, Peace House Director and Oklahoma Conference of Churches board member will emcee the event.
“The issue at Standing Rock is about much more than just ‘a pipeline’– it goes back to expose a tragic and too-often repeated process of the American government failing to honor the rights of indigenous cultures after it claims to have given them sovereignty,” said Bridgwater.
“Yes, pipelines themselves are a serious issue due to their known failures and pollution problems, and their continued promotion of fossil fuels that we know are driving climate change, but I think what all of us speaking want people to know– is that there are people all over this nation who fully support the notion of tribal sovereignty and believe in this case the United States and corporate interests need to honor the tribe’s request to stop construction.”
According to the environmental law organization EarthJustice, on Saturday, September 3, Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners used bulldozers to destroy Standing Rock burial sites, prayer sites and other culturally significant artifacts. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had filed documents in court stating the location of these sacred sites less than 24 hours earlier.
Then on Sunday, the Standing Rock Tribe filed an emergency motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for a temporary restraining order to prevent further destruction of the Tribe’s sacred sites by DAPL.
The motion seeks to prevent additional construction work on an area two miles west of North Dakota Highway 1806, and within 20 miles of Lake Oahe until a Judge rules on the Tribe’s previous motion to stop construction.
“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,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux. “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.”
A decision on the case is expected by Sept. 9.
On Tuesday morning (Sept. 6), National Public Radio (NPR) reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not oppose the temporary halt of DAPL construction.
“The Corps acknowledges that the public interest would be served by preserving peace near Lake Oahe until the Court can render its well-considered opinion on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction,” the Corps said. “The Corps therefore does not oppose this short and discrete temporary restraining order.”
For more information, contact Nathaniel Batchelder at 405-824-2794.