Amicus Brief to Support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

As this edition of Restoration goes to print, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) is preparing to file an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST). The brief will support the tribe in its fight to stop a pipeline that threatens their water, sacred sites, and ultimately, the health and welfare of their entire nation. “We are asking all organizations who joined us in signing onto the Dollar General and past amicus briefs to join us now,” said Lucy Simpson, Director, NIWRC.

Background on the Legal Case

The SRST filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The litigation involves two broad issues surrounding the proposed construction of a major crude-oil pipeline that passes through the tribe’s ancestral lands. 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 burial grounds that federal law seeks to protect. You can read more about the lawsuit at

SRST filed a motion for preliminary injunction in the United States District Court, District of Columbia. On September 9, 2016, the federal judge presiding over the case denied SRST’s motion. As a result, the pipeline company (Energy Transfer Partners) is free to continue to construct on—and destroy—the tribe’s sacred sites east and west of the Missouri River. SRST has filed an appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and after SRST files its brief on the merits, NIWRC will file an amicus brief in support.

“Regardless of the court’s decision today, we are winning the spiritual battle. We must continue to have faith and believe in the strength of our prayers and not do anything in violence. We must believe in the Creator and good things will come. We will continue to stand united and peaceful in our opposition to the pipeline.”

—Chairman Dave Archambault II, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

What Will NIWRC’s Amicus Brief Say?

There is a recognized and documented correlation between an increase in extractive industries and an increase in violence against Native women. Data gathered in the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota and Montana, as well as data from various extractive industries in other indigenous territories (such as Canada), show that an increase in extractive industries coincides with an increase in crimes against Native women and children such as rape, assault, domestic violence, murder, and sex trafficking. The current oil extraction activities in North Dakota—at present levels—have already created a crisis. Native women and children—and the nations that seek to protect them—suffer the most.

As sovereign nations, the tribes in North Dakota have an inherent right to protect their women and children from anyone or anything that threatens to bring crime onto tribal lands. But when Native nations are excluded from the federal consultation process, they lose any and all meaningful opportunity to consult on the harmful effects a pipeline will have on their land, water, and ultimately—the lives of their citizens. Congress created the §106 consultation process to honor and respect the sovereign government-to-government relationship between the United States and Native nations. As trustee to Native nations, the federal government has a duty and an obligation to fully engage Native nations in the §106 consultation process and consider all concerns Native nations voice—including, and not limited to, the increased violence and assaults their women and children will face if the federal government issues the permits necessary to allow this pipeline to cross the Missouri River.

The amicus brief in support of the SRST is part of the NIWRC’s VAWA Sovereignty Initiative Project. It will be coauthored by Mary Kathryn Nagle and Sarah Deer, and filed by Pipestem Law P.C.