By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Earlier this month, Oklahoma Native American leaders, along with representatives of several environmental and religious organizations, met in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL).
The event, held at Church of the Open Arms (UCC) in Oklahoma City, also covered protection of the Missouri River water supply, endangered species, and the use of fossil fuels.
Some 200 Native American Tribes and Nations have formally expressed solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, who have been actively resisting construction of the DAPL.
The oil pipeline is planned to span four-states and cost $3.8 billion.
Dozens of national environmental groups have pledged support for the pipeline resistance actions. Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace and others believe that fossil fuels must be replaced by clean energy sources like solar and wind.
“The issue at Standing Rock is about much more than just ‘a pipeline,” said Johnson Bridgwater, Director of the Sierra Club Oklahoma Chapter. “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.
“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.”
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.
Speakers included Casey Camp-Horinek, Ponca Nation Councilwoman; 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; Rev. Mark Davies, Board of Church & Society President, United Methodist Conference of Oklahoma; Rev. Jim Stovall, Environmental Committee Chair, OK Conference of Churches; and Pat Hoerth, Environmental Committee Chair, OK United Methodist Conference.
Peace House Director Nathaniel Batchelder emceed the event.
Camp-Horinek, just returned from North Dakota where she delivered a letter resolution in support from the Ponca Nation, reported Patty Santos of KOCO News. “We feel the stand they’re taking is both empowering and necessary at a time like this,” Camp-Horinek said. “We do know that water is life and we must protect it.”
The tribe filed a motion seeking 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 ruled on the Tribe’s previous motion to stop construction.
Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux stated, “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.”
On Sept. 9 shortly after a federal judge declined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction to stop construction on the pipeline, the Obama administration announced that it would not permit the project to continue for now.
The administration also will invite tribes to formal meetings this fall about whether any federal rules around national infrastructure projects like the DAPL should be reformed in order to protect tribal resources and rights. It will also consider whether new laws should be proposed to Congress.
More recently, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II took the fight to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, in order to gather international opposition to the project.
According to NBC News, Archambault said the U.S. government had failed to abide by signed treaties with the tribe — referring to the 1851 Treaty of Traverse de Sioux and 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, two legally-binding treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate that recognize the Sioux’s national sovereignty.
Archambault spoke as part of a U.N. Human Rights Council hearing on indigenous rights, which included over three dozen tribes from around the world concerned with violations on their lands, NBC reported.
“The oil companies and the government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights,” Archambault said.
On Sept. 16, a federal appeals court ruled to officially halt the construction of the DAPL, and to give the court more time to assess concerns that the pipeline could destroy sacred sites and burial grounds.
“There was solidarity,” Archambault told NBC News. “To see tribes here from all over the world who are having the same experiences where large corporations are infringing on their land, on their rights — it was powerful to see that we aren’t alone in our struggle.”
A local protest was held on Sept. 15 in front of Oklahoma City’s Bank of America Financial Center. Environmentalists and American Indians carried signs and waved flags according to Carla Hinton of The Oklahoman.
Bank of America is the lead financier of Plains All American Pipelines, which is developing the Red River II Pipeline, Hinton reported.