Choctaws send aid to Standing Rock water protectors

Photo courtesy of the Choctaw Nation
Jenny Huggins
Staff Writer

Protesters have been met with rubber bullets, dogs, mace, strip searched and imprisoned in dog kennels at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Numerous tribes have gotten together to take a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline that will run less than a mile north of their reservation.
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is among those who have sent help. The tribes are arguing that the pipeline would contaminate their water supply if there was a leak.  

The original proposal had the pipeline going across the Missouri River, but it was changed when the risks were examined. The residents of the town had concerns that if there was a leak, it would contaminate the water for the capital city, Bismarck. The pipeline was then rerouted to cross to the reservation.
"There are two broad issues. First, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River (at Lake Oahe) just a half a mile upstream of the Tribe’s reservation boundary, where a spill would be culturally and economically catastrophic. Second, the pipeline would pass through areas of great cultural significance, such as sacred sites and burials that federal law seeks to protect," according to the FAQ page of the tribe's website.

Protestors have been peacefully gathering for months to stop the pipeline from crossing their land but recently were met with tanks and a militarized police presence. "The militarization of local law enforcement and enlistment of multiple law enforcements agencies from neighboring states is needlessly escalating violence and unlawful arrests against peaceful protesters at Standing Rock," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement about recent arrests and actions on both sides. 

"We do not condone reports of illegal actions, but believe the majority of peaceful protesters are reacting to strong-arm tactics and abuses by law enforcement."
Water Protectors, as they call themselves, have been receiving donations from individuals and tribes across the country and world. They recently used crowd sourcing to ask for $5,000 for their cause but were met with an outpouring of support. The group raised over one million dollars from their requests for funding.

The Choctaw Nation joined many tribes in sending support. The most recent donation was taken by a group after Jeff Hansen, emergency management director for the Choctaw Nation, received a request from Chief Gary Batton asking him to contact the tribe to see how the Choctaw Nation could support their efforts.

The group that went stopped to buy items such as sleeping bags, generators, chainsaws and propane heaters when they reached North Dakota. The protestors will need winter supplies to continue the protest.
Lakota Nations Tribal Councilman-At-Large Charles Walker said, “It’s a good feeling knowing we have so much support because when we have our tribal nations come together although we come from different backgrounds, we come from different treaties, we come from different whatever had happened to our people in the past, we’re still here in the fact that we exist. We stand here today in unity with our people.”  
According to the Choctaw Nation, hundreds of tribes have contributed in some way to the Standing Rock people and the community at Sacred Stone. “This fight is everyone’s,” Hansen said. The fight is raising awareness about tribes, their governments and their treaties that they expect to be honored.  

In a joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the lack of tribal representation was addressed. “Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects. Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.”

By supporting each other, the tribes have opened up the national discussion to include topics of native input into government decisions which could affect tribes around the country, not just Standing Rock. The president said recently that they would let the situation play out for a few more weeks and the Army Corps of Engineers is assessing the situation to see if the route of the pipeline can be changed again.