New Information:Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

Lakota Law


You may recall that, in late March, the Standing Rock, Oglala, Yankton, and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes won a key round in their legal battle against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). In a reversal of his prior decision, D.C. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled that the pipeline hadn’t undergone proper environmental review. Though logic would dictate a subsequent cease to DAPL’s operations, Boasberg hasn’t taken that step. That’s why, last week, the Lakota Law team joined an Earthjustice-led effort and submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the judge, a strong legal argument that the oil flow must stop immediately.

Lakota Law
For a comprehensive picture of the history of DAPL and current legal landscape, check out our in-depth blog, which also features our television ad targeted to the D.C. market in 2017 arguing for a full Environmental Impact Statement.

It’s not complicated. Because Boasberg’s latest decision voids the easement granted for DAPL, it should no longer be permitted to carry oil, at least until we’ve seen an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act. We’ve been arguing for a proper EIS since the beginning, recognizing that — given the oil company’s horrendous safety track record — it may be impossible to produce.

As you know, the Obama administration agreed that a comprehensive review was needed in late 2016, shutting down construction as thousands cheered at Standing Rock during the #NoDAPL protests. Sadly, everything changed when Trump took office. One of his first executive orders fast-tracked the pipeline without the EIS. Then, when Standing Rock took legal action, Judge Boasberg cited an exception in the law allowing construction despite known, potential hazards.

Boasberg’s latest ruling has changed the game again, this time in our favor. In our brief, LPLP Chief counsel Daniel Sheehan argues that if the oil flow doesn’t stop now, the Court will send a perilous message that litigation against the government is “meaningless and tantamount to a bait and switch designed to fool those naïve enough to believe that the rule of law still has efficacy.”

We’re not alone. Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee have also joined U.S. senators including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren to submit a powerful amicus brief. Their legal argument was prepared by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, both of whom met face-to-face with our team in recent months.

We are aligned with powerful people, and the support you have shown to the Lakota means we can keep fighting nonstop to cancel pipelines and forward justice. The tide may be turning. I hope that if you stay with us, we can bring additional legal victories — and safety — back to our homelands.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for your friendship and your support,

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

COVID-19 in Indian Country

Indian Country’s COVID-19 SyllabusIndian Country COVId

COVID-19 Cases in Indian Country
Indian Country Today needs your help to gather positive COVID-19 cases and deaths related to COVID-19 in your tribal community.

INSTRUCTIONS: Let us know if there are any confirmed positive COVID-19 cases or deaths related to COVID-19 in your tribal nation or announced by your tribal nation. Please fill out this Google Form as complete as you can. Once we receive your response, we follow up with the tribal or health official to confirm the cases.

Take a look at Indian Country’s COVID-19 syllabus where you can find the COVID-19 tracker, stories, roundtables, op-eds and more:

The Native Vote Intiative

MAY 28, 2020
NCAI to Launch 2020 Native Vote Efforts with Star-Studded Virtual Rally
WASHINGTON, D.C. | On Thursday, May 28th, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. EDT, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Fawn Sharp and DJ Emcee One will co-host the Native Vote Taking Action in 2020 Virtual Rally. This event will serve as the official kick-off for NCAI’s Native Vote initiative for 2020 and will stream live online via NCAI’s Facebook and YouTube channels to launch voter engagement in one of the most important years for civic engagement in Indian Country.
The evening’s lineup features appearances by:
·        Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM)
·        Mark Trahant, Indian Country Today and The Trahant Report
·        Natalie Landreth, Native American Rights Fund
·        OJ Semans, Sr., Four Directions, Inc.
·        Shelly Diaz, Native Vote Coordinator, Minnesota
·        Nichole Donaghy, Native Vote Coordinator, North Dakota
·        Jasha Lyons-Echohawk, Native Vote Coordinator, Oklahoma
·        Lindsey McCovey, Native Vote Coordinator, California
·        Teresa Melendez, Native Vote Coordinator, Nevada
·        Travis Lane, Native Vote Coordinator, Arizona
·        Anthony Tamez-Pochel, Youth Board Member, Center for Native American Youth
Native Vote is a legacy, nonpartisan voting initiative of NCAI which focuses on the key pillars of Voter Registration and Get-Out-The-Native-Vote (GOTNV), Election Protection, Education, and Data Collection. To read more about the Native Vote initiative, visit
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit
National Congress of American Indians
Embassy of Tribal Nations
1516 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

New Map Available

Pueblo Map

A former official from Acoma Pueblo and the All Pueblo Council of Governors contacted me asking for a map of the Puebloan Peoples. So as requested, please find it below! This map shows all modern, occupied Pueblos as well as many of the ones that were unoccupied shortly after the arrival of the Spanish.
The Pueblo people united in 1680 under leader Pope to remove all Spanish people from their communities. Twelve years later the Spanish returned – this time with more humility.
Feel free to check out the link or purchase here:
Tribal Nations Maps | PO Box 140252, Broken Arrow, OK 74014

Continued Vigilance Needed

Greetings again from Bear Soldier District on Standing Rock Nation. I thank you for your dedicated action on behalf of the people here. You’ve sent almost 13,000 emails to the nearly all-white McLaughlin City Council and the town’s mayor telling them to suspend utility shut-offs during the COVID-19 pandemic. And more than one of you made anonymous donations to my son’s family, making it possible for him, his wife, and my grandchildren to return to their home. That’s huge. We know the city is feeling the pressure.

Unfortunately, their reaction has been to circle the wagons. Knowing that increased Native representation at City Hall could make all the difference in fair treatment of the town’s tribal people, they are resorting to what we believe are brazenly illegal means to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Here’s what I mean: a mayoral election is coming up on June 9, and my nephew, Hoksila White Mountain, is a promising candidate. A recent graduate of Sitting Bull College with a BA in social work, Hoksila has life experience and growing support from our Native community. He has already been working hard to remedy the utility shut-off problem.

Hoksila White Mountain
Hoksila White Mountain is being blocked from running for mayor by McLaughlin City Hall.

But now, City Hall has struck him from the ballot. They say they heard through the grapevine he didn’t follow a provincial law requiring him to collect petition signatures himself to enter the race. In fact, he did two separate rounds of signature gathering specifically to meet the standard. Our research tells us he followed all the rules, and yet he was still removed.

Thankfully, our partnership with the Lakota People’s Law project — and with you — could make all the difference. If necessary, the Lakota Law team will take legal action to get Hoksila back into the election.

Please stay tuned, because we’re also investigating which state and/or federal agencies can provide oversight — and we will share an opportunity soon to contact those agencies directly. Together, we are on the verge of creating significant change here in Bear Soldier. With your continued pressure, we’ll ensure that Native people can run for elected office anywhere at Standing Rock.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for helping us change lives for the better!

Robert White Mountain
via the Lakota People’s Law Project

Virus Outbreak at Pine Ridge

I write with unfortunate news: we’re now dealing with an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at Pine Ridge. We’re up to at least five positive tests here, a rapidly growing number that has forced a 72-hour lockdown.

This demonstrates why it’s absolutely critical that many of you have taken the time to tell South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem not to challenge our COVID-19 checkpoints. Fortunately, your pressure is working. You sent more than 15,000 emails to the governor, and she flinched — failing to follow through on her 48-hour legal deadline.

As Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner’s spokesperson and public relations director, protecting the people of this nation and sharing our stories are my sacred duties. I’m proud of the powerful conversation my president had last night with Don Lemon on CNN. Please watch and share it. We must continue to win the public education battle.

Lakota Law

This outbreak is yet another demonstration of Governor Noem’s statewide policy failure with COVID-19. This is why we’ve taken matters into our own hands. We are so obviously on the right side of this that 17 state lawmakers, including a Republican, have penned an open letter to the governor in support of us. Even Fox News is having a hard time spinning this one in the governor’s favor.

I thank you, with all of my heart, for listening and acting in friendship with my relatives. If we stand our ground and keep the conversation going, we will prevail — over ignorance in our state capitol and over this pandemic.

Wopila — my sincere thanks for your attention,

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Important Online Meeting!

Organize to Win in 2020

We’re hosting an urgent call to provide updates on the status of Keystone XL, what we’re doing to fight back in the midst of COVID-19, and how we can win in November.

Sign up below to join our call on Thursday, May 14th at 8pm ET/5pm PT to hear from Bill McKibben, key partners, and members of the team about what’s next.

If you can, please have some paper and a marker or pen available to participate in a quick activity during the call.


May 14, 2020 07:30 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Regarding Vital Checkpoints!

We have a potentially explosive situation at the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Reservations. If you’ve been looking at the news, you may have seen that South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has threatened our tribes with legal action because we have taken the rational step of setting up COVID-19 checkpoints on roads entering our homelands.

Native communities have the right to protect ourselves from the spread of disease, and the law is on our side. You can help. Email Kristi Noem right now and tell her to walk back her threat to Lakota tribes before lives are lost!

Lakota Law
Caption: In our new video, my colleague, Chase Iron Eyes — who serves as public relations director for Oglala president Julian Bear Runner — discusses the urgency of protecting our citizens. (Photo courtesy of Warrior Women Project.)

Governor Noem has failed to mandate common sense protections for tribes and all the people of her state during the COVD-19 pandemic, so the Oglala and Cheyenne River Nations have taken matters into our own hands by setting up these checkpoints on reservation roads to limit the pandemic’s spread.

They are not roadblocks, and there is no truth to Governor Noem’s repeated assertions that essential or emergency traffic is being detained or turned back. Here at Cheyenne River, we are requiring visitors to fill out a health questionnaire or travel through the reservation without stopping. And just yesterday, two more positive cases at Pine Ridge forced a 72-hour lockdown to enable contact tracing and keep folks safe.

Although Governor Noem asserts that the tribes have not engaged in adequate consultation with state officials, both the Oglala and Cheyenne River Nations have interacted with a swath of state agencies on this issue. 17 state senators have now published an open letter declaring that she has no legal authority to regulate activity on reservation roads without tribal consent.

Governor Noem in no position to issue threats. She’s failing to protect her own constituents within our jurisdiction, so we will. This is a life or death situation, and we have a right to live.

Wopila tanka — my gratitude for your action!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Again: Permit Invalid


Published on

Again Finding US Permit Invalid, Federal Court Upholds Block on ‘Climate-Busting’ Keystone XL Construction

“Our courts have shown time and time again that the law matters.”

A federal judge on Monday denied the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ request to amend his earlier ruling regarding TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline, reaffirming that a permit issued by the Army Corps was invalid.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled again that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) violated the Endangered Species Act when it issued Nationwide Permit 12, which allows companies to construct energy projects at water crossings.

“The court rightly ruled that the Trump administration can’t continue to ignore the catastrophic effects of fossil fuel pipelines like Keystone XL.”
—Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity

Climate action and Indigenous rights campaigners have for years fought the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which if built would cross bodies of water hundreds of times along its nearly 1,200-mile route from Alberta to Nebraska. TC Energy plans to send tar sands oil along the route, which opponents say would put Indigenous communities as well as wildlife at risk for dangerous leaks and exposure to toxic waste.

“The court rightly ruled that the Trump administration can’t continue to ignore the catastrophic effects of fossil fuel pipelines like Keystone XL,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “Constructing pipelines through rivers, streams, and wetlands without analyzing the impacts on imperiled species is unconscionable.”

The USACE had asked Morris to narrow his April 15 ruling, but the judge only changed his decision on Nationwide Permit 12 to allow non-pipeline construction, such as electrical transmission lines, to move forward.

“Our courts have shown time and time again that the law matters,” said Cecilia Segal, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorney. “Today’s ruling makes clear that climate-busting pipelines like Keystone XL cannot be built until the federal government does its job and properly analyzes these projects’ devastating effects on their surrounding communities and wildlife. If that analysis is based on science and facts, pipelines like Keystone XL will never see the light of day because they remain, and always will be, a dire threat to our water, wildlife, and climate.”

Indigenous Environmental Network @IENearth

Ft. Peck Assiniboine Sioux Kokipasni youth organizer Prairiedawn has been speaking out against @TCEnergy‘s KXL pipeline because she and her friends are afraid of the increase in man camps bring to Indigenous communities. 

15 people are talking about this

Virus widens gap between internet haves, have-nots

Joaqlin Estus

‘At no other time in history has robust and universal broadband been more important to the most vulnerable among us’

Joaqlin Estus

Indian Country Today

When the Hopi village of Bacavi had its first positive COVID-19 diagnosis in early April, the decision to close its doors to nonresidents was slowed by poor internet access.

Stay-at-home orders prohibited meetings in the Arizona community, so tribal leaders had to make decisions about closures via phone calls, said Bacavi resident Barbara Poley, Laguna and Hopi.

“Zoom would have really helped,” she said. “But the [village] governor could not receive my information because her internet service was not working.”

The communications hurdles on the rural Hopi reservation are all too common in Indian Country. The Federal Communications Commission estimates approximately a third of those living on tribal lands lack access to high-speed internet, though others say the figure is far higher.

Advocates say the problem is more urgent than ever with people lacking access to everything from public health information and telemedical services to educational and employment services during a pandemic.

“At no other time in history has robust and universal broadband been more important to the most vulnerable among us,” according to the Congressional Native American Caucus, led by U.S. Reps. Deb Halland, (D-NM) and Tom Cole (R-OK).

Monday, the caucus wrote to the Federal Communications Commission asking for a quick fix by authorizing use of frequencies that cover larger areas but carry less signal than others.

It asked the agency to authorize temporary use of available 2.5 GHz spectrum and other efficient, available and cost-effective spectrum on all tribal lands, both reservations and allotments. The commission has a program to authorize use of unassigned 2.5 GHz on rural reservation lands by individual application. Under that program, tribes cannot use 2.5 GHz frequencies under license to someone else even if it is unused.

In an email, commission spokesman Will Wiquist said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai “has seen the digital divide on Tribal lands and is committed to finding solutions to keep Americans on Tribal lands connected.”

“That’s why he championed a priority window for rural Tribes in the 2.5 GHz band, and that’s why granting requests for special temporary authority have been prioritized for requesting Tribes,” Wiquist said.

The agency website shows 29 tribes have applied for emergency use of the 2.5 spectrum. He said two applied on the Navajo and Zuni reservations, and those requests were “acted upon/granted within two business days of receiving the information necessary to grant use of the spectrum.”

He said entities also can apply for special temporary authority to available spectrum other than 2.5 GHz. He said “COVID-related STAs have typically been granted for 60 days, but can be extended as circumstances warrant.”

In explaining the need, the caucus’ letter said: “Connectivity barriers have created enormous disadvantages for tribal members and others living on reservations, limiting access to basic telehealth services, and making it difficult to perform fundamental activities like quickly sending patient information between health facilities and adequately uploading information.”

A 2019 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota’s Center for American Indian Development found only 55 percent of the households on reservations in the U.S. Southwest, Northern Plains and Intermountain West have broadband access, well below the national average of 78 percent.

The report said lower incomes are linked to less broadband access. And lack of access may add to economic development challenges.

“The net effects of enhanced access are generally considered positive for economic vitality, including through channels such as increased productivity at local businesses, increased sales to consumers outside the reservation, improved lifestyle and government services that attract residents, improved medical and educational services, and more,” the report stated.

The lack of internet service in Indian Country is playing out during the pandemic with people dying, and suffering physically, emotionally, and spiritually, according to Loris Taylor, Hopi and Acoma. She is president and CEO of the nonprofit Native Public Media, a support and advocacy group for tribal media.

Taylor was one of the panelists in a Right2Connect town hall meeting hosted by the advocacy group MediaJustice.

“In places where infrastructure is limited, the anxiety is even more pronounced,” she said. “I am hearing from people [in Indian Country] who have no running water, no electricity, who live on unpaved roads and who have no internet, from people who want information from hospitals, law enforcement, hazard management, and government.”

She said parents without internet access take their children to parking lots where they can access hotspots so the kids can do their homework, if they have a handheld device, which is more than some families can afford. “It’s not right,” Taylor said.

She also urged the Federal Communications Commission to allow tribes to access unused 2.5 GHz spectrum on reservations.

Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted during the virtual town hall that millions of people have lost their incomes due to COVID-19. They are at risk of getting their internet cut off due because they can’t afford it, at a time “when the pandemic compels people to head online like never before,” she said.

The commission provides low-income subscribers with a monthly discount of $9.25 for basic telephone and broadband Internet access service, or voice-broadband bundled service purchased from participating providers. It recently temporarily waived usage requirements and de-enrollment for Lifeline, to keep Americans connected during the coronavirus pandemic. The waiver ensures no Lifeline subscribers are removed from the program until May 29.

“As this virus places enormous strains on our economy and households, we’re going to have to double down on our efforts to make sure nobody is left behind when it comes to communications,” Rosenworcel said.

ICT Phone Logo

Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today, and a longtime Alaska journalist. She serves on the board of Native Public Media.

Indian Country Today LLC is a nonprofit, public media enterprise. Reader support is critical. We do not charge for subscriptions, and tribal media (or any media, for that matter) can use our content for free. Our goal is public service. Please join our cause and support independent journalism today. We have an audacious plan for 2020, and your donation will help us make it so. #MyICT