Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. United States Army Corps of Engineers

Filed on:

In February 2017, NIWRC filed an amicus brief in the litigation in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s motion for summary judgment challenging the Corps’ decision to proceed with permitting the pipeline without preparing a full environmental impact statement. NIWRC’s amicus brief was joined by 118 additional organizations and Tribal Nations that share NIWRC’s commitment to ending violence against Native women.

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 — has 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.

Prior to filing its amicus brief, NIWRC formally submitted comments to the Corps in January 2017, eight days after the Corps initiated the EIS comment period and thirteen days before the Corps terminated the EIS process on February 8, 2017. In its submitted comments, NIWRC provided the Army Corps with its views on: the unconsidered risks that would result from the Army Corps granting the easement without adequately considering the public interest implications of the proposed pipeline. Specifically, the Army Corps must consider the increased levels of violence Native women and children in the Bakken region will face if the pipeline is permitted to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe and commence operations.