DAPL Construction Nears US Army Corps Land While Still Lacking Permits

Oceti Sakowin, ND – Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) within Morton County, North Dakota is almost complete. The pipeline has now reportedly progressed to within half a mile of land owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which would require permits that have not yet been issued.

Currently, DAPL equipment is visible from the main Oceti Sakowin camp:

Outcome of Tribal Negotiations With Army Corps of Engineers is Uncertain

The various tribal leaders from Sioux nations making up the Oceti Sakowin council have currently asked for a pause in direct actions from the camp while they attempt to conduct negotiations with the Army Corps of Engineers. As reported by Mother Jones reporter Wes Enzinna, on Friday, November 4th, tribal leaders and others present at a meeting recounted that:

Colonel John W. Henderson, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers in North Dakota, agreed that the Corps will ask Energy Transfer Partners to halt construction of the Dakota Access pipeline for at least 30 days… Henderson said he would wait at least 30 days until granting such an easement. If the Corps’ Washington, DC, office grants the easement, Henderson reportedly said he would not sign it for 30 days… A spokeswoman for the Corps said it is in ongoing deliberations with the Standing Rock Sioux and that yesterday’s meeting was part of an ongoing process. She said the Corps will not make any decisions until the Department of the Army completes its own review. Right now, she said, the 30-day stay is only a proposal.” – Wes Enzinna, Activists Say Dakota Access Pipeline Could Be Put on Hold for 30 Days

The 30-day stay on construction being referred to as “only a proposal” suggests that construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline will currently continue to take place.

It is also unclear whether the federal government will order Energy Transfer Partners to cease DAPL construction work, or merely make a request for construction to be voluntarily halted. The federal government had previously asked for a voluntary halt to all construction within a 20-mile area of Lake Oahe, a request which the Army Corps has confirmed was disregarded by Energy Transfer Partners.

Energy Transfer Partners also came under fire after documents revealed that they discovered sacred artifacts on the pipeline routeon or about October 15”, yet waited until October 25 to notify the proper historical preservation agencies.

Drone footage released on November 2nd (after the FAA lifted the Temporary Flight Restriction over the area) shows DAPL construction, including a military-style fortified compound, taking place very close to Lake Oahe and the Missouri River.

Treaty Rights Ignored by Government, Legal Jurisdiction Becomes Murky

The entire area of the Oceti Sakowin Camp, adjacent lands claimed to be Army Corps property and the Cannonball Ranch area where DAPL construction is currently underway, are all demarcated as territories of the Sioux nations according to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

At this time, it seems that neither Dakota Access, North Dakota, or the United States federal government are recognizing these areas as treaty lands. The current Oceti Sakowin Camp and many nearby areas are considered by the US government to be property of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Oceti Sakowin Camp has been essentially leased by the Army Corps to the peoples currently occupying it, but nearby areas claimed by the Army Corps have been occupied by police and Dakota Access mercenaries, despite it being federal land where they are thought to have no jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, November 1st, water protectors who were canoeing through Lake Oahe on Army Corps land were threatened with arrest by armed men who appeared to be from the North Dakota National Guard. When asked by the water protectors, the armed men claimed they had permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct arrests on Corps land.

After seeing this report, Unicorn Riot reached out to both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice to confirm whether or not they had in fact authorized local law enforcement to make arrests on federal land. Neither have responded to our requests for comment.

The next day, while defending their use of force and chemical weapons against water protectors attempting to pray at a sacred site, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department posted on Facebook that the Army Corps had asked them to act against water protectors on certain Corps-owned lands.

mcsdarmycorp

The Army Corps also issued a letter requesting “law enforcement assistance” that seemed to contain the same points referenced by the Morton County Sheriff. The letter contains a map indicating the areas in which Morton County is permitted to operate, while indicating that assistance is not requested in areas not marked as such.

armycorpsmap

The narrative presented by the Morton County Sheriff paints a picture of the Army Corps reaching out to Morton County and asking them to initiate a presence in the area near the Oceti Sakowin camp (which includes many sacred sites).

However, when approached outside his office by a group of water protectors, Col. Henderson (the head Army Corps official in the Omaha district, which contains the area in question) said he sent the letter requesting assistance from Morton County “at the request” of Morton County.

Unicorn Riot has been unable to speak with anyone from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers despite repeated attempts.

TYT Politics reporter Jordan Chariton was able to conduct a phone interview Army Corps spokesman Gene Pawlik. Pawlik seemed to display a lack of basic knowledge regarding the treaty issues at stake in the ongoing land dispute surrounding DAPL construction & corps property:

Chariton: “In terms of what constitutes Army Corps property, cause I’m told by many people this is Native American’s land but them I’m told it’s Army Corp land…can you break that down for me? Is it Native American land by the 1851 treaty [of Fort Laramie] or is it not Native American land?

Pawlik: “I honestly don’t know enough about the treaty to know about the specific history… I know that it’s currently classified as Army Corps federal property…I’m not qualified to speak on the treaty piece of it.

When asked if the Army Corps was monitoring pipeline construction to prevent Energy Transfer Partners from doing DAPL construction work on Corps property without the proper permits, Pawlik answered “we don’t have people who are standing out there on a permanent basis to watch.

On November 3rd, Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe issued a public letter calling for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fire Col. Henderson. This letter was a response to “racist and insulting” comments Frazier says Henderson made during a conversation the two had about Morton County Sheriff using violence and chemical weapons against water protectors on Army Corps land.

According to Indian Country Media Today Network:

Henderson went on to repeat numerous unfounded allegations made by Morton County North Dakota Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, among “a range of other alleged crimes he believed were committed by individual Indians or people Colonel Henderson may suspect are Indians,” Frazier wrote, including the almost constant accusations of violence being committed by water protectors, “almost none of which the Sheriff has ever substantiated with evidence, witness statements or arrests. Colonel Henderson particularly focused on Kirchemeir’s claim that an unidentified Indian had stolen or mutilated a rancher’s buffalo, perhaps having shot it with an arrow…

Frazier said his jurisdictional question had yet to be answered.

“What this specious and unproven allegation had to do with my jurisdictional question, the unexplained collusion between the North Dakota law enforcement and the Corps, or the ongoing violation of human rights on Corps’ lands today, I cannot tell you. But the racist undertones of his allegations were not lost on me…” – Theresa Braine, Cheyenne River Sioux Chair Calls for Resignation of US Army Corps’ Henderson

The Oceti Sakowin Camp and surrounding areas continue to remain under heavy surveillance from law enforcement and DAPL security. One plane of unknown ownership has been flying over the camp at night with its lights off, creating safety concerns for campers.

Clergy Arrive at Standing Rock in Solidarity

On the morning of Thursday, November 3rd, hundreds of clergy arrived at Standing Rock and marched to the bridge on Highway 1806, the site of previous standoffs, to hold a prayer circle.

Later in the day, a group of clergy and water protectors converged at the North Dakota state capitol in Bismarck. Despite the peaceful nature of the gathering, the capitol grounds were placed on security lockdown after individuals demanded to present a letter expressing support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to Governor Jack Dalrymple.

Fourteen clergy were arrested after singing and praying inside the state capitol building, and three were arrested while protesting on the lawn of Governor Dalrymple’s mansion.

In a press conference held on Friday, the next day, a representative of the North Dakota Highway Patrol called the arrested clergy “very childish” and “a disgrace” for refusing to stand while being arrested.

According to the Red Owl Legal Collective (ROLC), the main body coordinating legal assistance for water protectors arrested during #NoDAPL direct actions, those arrested at the state capitol were separated into groups and some of them were transported to a different jail in a different county hours away, in what appears to be an arbitrary and malicious act meant to punish protest activity.

Rather than bring all the arrestees to a holding facility in Bismarck, law enforcement separated the group by gender, then drove all the women to Fargo, ND, more than four hours’ drive away. ROLC has found no evidence that this decision was made because of a lack of space. The separation is part of a larger pattern of separating arrestees on seemingly arbitrary bases; ROLC reports that arrestees have been sent to six different facilities all over the state so far.” – Red Owl Collective, National Lawyers Guild

On Thursday in Austin, Texas, people confronted Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren at a meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Warren was appointed a member of this commission after donating half a million dollars to Gov. Greg Abbot’s campaign. Warren said he would schedule a meeting with community groups to discuss their concerns, a statement met with skepticism by those present at the meeting.

Legal Fallout Continues; Charges Dropped Against Water Protectors

Recent days have seen several new developments in the complex legal situation surrounding resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. On Thursday, November 4th, Sacred Stone Camp announced that two different water protectors had all their charges dropped:

Last month, spirit rider Mason Redwing was charged with felony reckless endangerment of law enforcement and a felony count of terrorizing law enforcement after he allegedly rode his horse towards a police line. On Tuesday, Judge Romanick found no probable cause and dismissed all charges against Redwing.

Similarly, Wanikiyewin Loud Hawk, a South Dakota native, was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of government function. The charges were dropped after Judge Romanick once again found no probable cause.” – Sacred Stone Camp

Water protector Red Fawn Fallis, is currently still held in the Morton County Jail on charges of attempted murder after law enforcement alleged she fired a handgun at officers while she was in the process of being arrested during the raid on the Oceti Sakowin front line camp on Thursday, October 27th.

Many inconsistencies have been pointed out in the Morton County Sheriff’s narrative regarding the allegations against Red Fawn Fallis – such as Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier announcing that no shots were fired on the day of the raid, then later claiming that Fallis fired three shots at officers.

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justicecalling for an investigation of violations of constitutional rights in the police response to peaceful protestors demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In the statement released by the Red Owl Legal Collective (ROLC) on Thursday, they described “civil rights and privacy violations” committed by police during recent actions against water protectors. The statement describes water protectors and journalists having their cars impounded and searched without a warrant, media equipment disappearing, and escalated charges being filed against those trying to support water protectors.

ROLC attorney Angela Bibens described the conditions of vehicles that had been returned after being seized by North Dakota armed forces during last week’s raid:

Most of the vehicles had been totally ransacked…We saw items removed from cars with no explanation, medicines emptied and scattered around, property destroyed, damage to steering columns, and evidence of attempts to open locked luggage.” – Angela Bibens, ROLC Attorney

The legal collective also described how sacred objects taken during the raid on the Oceti Sakowin north camp were apparently desecrated before being returned:

A dumpster load of seized property was recovered at a Bureau of Indian Affairs checkpoint on the highway about 2 miles from the camp. When protectors returned for their things, they found sacred item after sacred item had been defaced, with apparent intentionality. One item, a bull skull, had its horns snapped clean off.ROLC Statement

The report goes on to recount how one man was arrested for trying to deliver supplies to the Oceti Sakowin camp:

On November 2, a protector was pulled over, arrested, and told he was he being held for conspiracy charges. He was later charged with “impeding government function,” a charge Bibens finds disturbing given what the protector was doing at the time of his arrest: driving a U-Haul full of donated kayaks to the camp.” – ROLC statement

On Friday night, a vigil was held outside the Morton County Correctional Center to pray for people who have experienced abuse at the hands of North Dakota law enforcement.

Resistance Camp Population Continues to Grow

Despite the temporary pause in direct actions, the population at the Oceti Sakowin resistance camp has seen a marked increase in the last few days, with existing sub-camps welcoming new people and new camps being established.

Friday night at Red Warrior Camp, after an influx of newcomers, a ceremony was held to raise the indigenous warrior flag, a symbol of unity between warrior societies from different tribal nations.

During the day on Saturday, more groups continued to arrive to join the camp.

(Title image credit: Dr0ne2bwild)


Unicorn Riot will continue to regularly provide direct updates about resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Follow our media on Twitter, Facebook, and our website for more information surrounding the ongoing struggles against the Dakota Access Pipeline.


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Unicorn Riot’s coverage of the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline struggle #NoDAPL from early summer 2016 to present:

March – May 2016

August 2016

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