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

Continued Vigilance Needed

https://teespring.com/stores/gallery-no8

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

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

Tragic News

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/29/coronavirus-andrea-circle-bear-federal-prison-death

I write to you today with sad news that highlights so many of the layers of injustice we face as Native people.

Here at the Lakota People’s Law Project, we’ve seen a lot and worked hard to address a variety of important issues over the past 15 years — among them criminal justice reform for American Indians. Now, in the coronavirus era, this problem has raised its ugly head again: a 30 year-old woman from my tribal nation, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, died in federal custody in a Texas prison on Tuesday, Apr, 21, just three weeks after giving birth. The cause of her death? COVID-19.

Lakota Law
Andrea Circle Bear and her newborn.

How is it that one of our tribal members was taken from my homelands into custody by South Dakota state officials bent on ignoring the threat of coronavirus, and then shipped to a prison in another state that also ignores science — Texas — where she contracted a preventable disease that killed her?

At no point in this process did Andrea have the power to protect herself — an age-old crisis here in Indian Country: lack of sovereignty. Who will someday explain to Andrea’s infant child how and why her mother died in the hands of the enemy?

For a fuller picture of the circumstances surrounding Andrea’s premature and avoidable death, I encourage you to read this chilling article in The Guardian.

Andrea’s tragic story shows why your attention to our Indigenous communities is so important. In the coming days, the Lakota People’s Law Project media team will work with journalists to ensure they have support on the ground as they uncover what happened to Ms. Circle Bear. Moreover, we will redouble our efforts to resist willful ignorance in states like South Dakota and Texas in the face of this pandemic, and we’ll work in every way we can to strengthen tribal nations. We live in poverty and we are vulnerable, but we know how to fight.

Please stay with us. With courage, everything is possible.

Wopila — My gratitude for your solidarity,

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

Regarding Sioux Falls

👏 Tell South Dakota: public safety now!
Thu, Apr 23, 2020 4:31 pm
Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)To:you Details

https://www.lakotalaw.org/our-actions/covid-noem

I hope you’re staying safe! Here in South Dakota, it’s getting crazier by the day. Governor Kristi Noem refuses to implement common sense rules to protect the people of her state — and among those most vulnerable are 72,000 Native people representing nine different tribal nations. Right now, Sioux Falls is home to one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation, yet Governor Noem has failed to issue a general stay-at-home order, hasn’t shut down nonessential businesses, and has begun using some of the city’s workers as hydroxychloroquine guinea pigs.

Please send an email to Governor Noem and tell her to stop putting Native American lives at risk. Tell her to issue a shelter-in-place mandate and shut down nonessential businesses right now — including Keystone XL pipeline construction.

Lakota Law
Watch our new video, in which Chase Iron Eyes gives context and Rachel Maddow details the horrific situation in Sioux Falls.

As Standing Rock’s Robert White Mountain recently shared with you, Governor Noem has also failed to issue statewide suspensions of utility shut-offs and evictions, forcing Native families into the streets in sub-freezing temperatures during the pandemic. Her willful ignorance of recommendations by medical professionals puts our tribal nations — where public health infrastructure is already often lacking — in extreme jeopardy. Both Pine Ridge and Standing Rock have positive cases. An uncontrolled spread among our people would be devastating.

Here at Cheyenne River, we’ve taken matters into our own hands by closing off roads into the reservation. So far it is working, but we can’t protect ourselves for long if South Dakota’s chief executive continues taking her queues from Trump.

The White House is largely at fault for inadequate testing and shortages of personal protective equipment. While the president calls to reopen the economy and praises oblivious protesters ignoring social distancing rules, only one percent of the U.S. population has been tested for COVID-19. Experts agree that the pathway to recovery includes testing millions of Americans every day.

Only five states in the country remain without stay-at-home orders, all here in the heartland, all with conservative governors. An extreme outlier and part of a renegade, right-wing movement to ignore science at the expense of (disproportionately Brown and Black) lives, Noem must hear the truth.

In solidarity,

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

P.S. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s failure to protect tribal citizens during the COVID-19 outbreak is a dangerous disgrace! Tell her to shut down nonessential work and to mandate all other necessary precautions today.

 

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

A Beautiful Book by John Chao

 

https://www.johnchao.com/standing-rock-add-name/

thumbnailJohn Chao created this beautiful photography book and has a chapter about Standing Rock. Check it out. People who were there have their names listed. I am listed there and am very proud to say that I was there, I was a witness, I contributed, and I tried to help in any way I could by waking up my school community on Sacramento to what was going on in North Dakota.

The struggle continues as we battle through a rogue government and a pandemic.

It will always be the artist, writers, and educators who will document and tell the tale.

 

Action Needed

After I wrote to you last week with news that the McLaughlin City Council had shut off the power to my son’s home, you came through in a big way. You flooded the council with nearly 10,000 emails demanding that they stop this harmful practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, and good work! However, though my son’s power is back on, the council still hasn’t stopped shut-offs citywide.

If you have not yet done so, please join the chorus telling Standing Rock Nation’s second-largest town to stop freezing families out of their homes as the pandemic hits South Dakota in a big way.

If you have already sent your message to the city council, please share our action on social media using the buttons below. Ask your friends and family to join our call for Standing Rock safety now.

    

Lakota Law
My son, his wife, and my grandchildren.

I am happy to tell you that a conscientious reporter from the Rapid City Journal also followed up on a press release we sent and wrote an article, later picked up by the Bismarck Tribune. We hope that the continued pressure from you and the media will pay off in policy change soon. The council will meet again on Apr. 21. Let’s make sure they know we won’t accept their failure to provide public safety for the people of Bear Soldier District (our Lakota name for McLaughlin).

Because South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem stubbornly refuses to call for even the most basic precautions to slow the viral spread, the pandemic has now exploded in my state. (We will share more with you about this very soon.) Sioux Falls is home to the single worst hot spot in the nation, and there are also multiple cases in Bear Soldier. This just makes it all the more important that local officials — like those on the McLaughlin City Council — behave responsibly.

Our goal in this campaign is not to increase racial division or get free electricity for anyone. Rather, we’re hoping to encourage compassion and concern for public health on the part of our elected officials — and reconciliation between Native and non-Native residents of Standing Rock. But our goal of unity can only be furthered if justice is secured.

Wopila — I thank you on behalf of all the families of Bear Soldier!

Robert White Mountain
via the Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. COVID-19 has arrived at Standing Rock. Please continue helping our families stay safe.

 

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

#StandWithMashpee

Aƞpétu wašté (Good day)! I hope you are staying well, and I want you to know that we’re praying for all our relations impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. One benefit of sheltering in place is that we’re able to keep our eyes peeled for important news. In case you missed it, I wanted to highlight a recent attack on Indigenous sovereignty and ask for your solidarity for our Mashpee relatives.

At the end of last month, the Department of Interior announced that 321 acres of land will be taken out of trust, effectively revoking the reservation status of the Mashpee Wampanoag people of Massachusetts. For those who learned the Thanksgiving story in elementary school, the Wampanoag people broke bread with the Pilgrims in Plymouth colony, and it was Wampanoag land that the Pilgrims took. And now, in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic, President Trump’s cabinet is moving to rescind the sovereign status of these people.

The Lakota People’s Law Project stands with the Mashpee Wampanoag in the struggle to defend their birthright to live on the land of their ancestors, and we ask that you take a few moments to watch my video and #StandWithMashpee too.

Lakota Law

President Obama placed the land in question into trust in 2015, but that decision has been reversed under Trump. A reinterpretation by our executive branch of a 2009 Supreme Court decision now only grants trust status to tribes recognized before 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was signed. Because the Mashpee weren’t federally recognized until 2007, they’ve now lost their status. As Jessie Little Doe Baird, vice chair of the tribe, said “they came for our children and took them to Carlisle because we were ‘too Indian.’ Today, they tell us we are not Indian enough.”

The Mashpee, who have lived in the Massachusetts area for over 12,000 years, are being denied their right to autonomy. With federal trust status comes the right to manage, develop, and tax a parcel of land. This “disestablishment” of the Mashpee reservation will likely force the closure of the tribal court and police department; it will cost Native people their livelihoods in an already barren economic landscape.

This blatant land-grab isn’t even court-ordered — the directive came from Trump’s Department of the Interior. Now, the Mashpee have asked a D.C. court to issue an emergency restraining order to prevent the dissolution of trust status, and Massachusetts senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey have vowed to combat this assault on the tribe’s self-determination, saying “We will not allow the Mashpee Wampanoag to lose their homeland.”

We Native people have struggled to retain less than 2.5 percent of our lands since European contact. The Indian Wars, in essence, have never truly ended. The United States’ long history of systemically suppressing Native rights continues, and in 2020, land trust removal is the latest iteration of that same legacy of colonialism. We are disheartened, but as Indigenous people and allies, we have each others’ backs in the face of adversity. You can stand for sovereignty by standing with the Mashpee people in their time of need.

Wopila — thank you. Solidarity forever,

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

Halt Keystone XL construction in his state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lakota Law

First of all, from my home in Cheyenne River to yours wherever you may be, I hope you are staying safe and well. Over my years, I’d come to think maybe I’d seen it all — but not so! One thing I know is that we’ll only get through this period of separation and hardship by sticking together. So I write to you today with an opportunity to help make a real difference that could save lives.

Please email Montana Governor Steve Bullock and tell him to halt Keystone XL construction in his state during the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter what our president says, KXL man camps do not enable “essential work” — instead they represent cauldrons of potential coronavirus transmission and threats to nearby communities, including tribal nations such as mine in South Dakota.

Lakota Law
Please join us in telling Montana stop KXL construction now, before it spreads COVID-19 on tribal nations.

As I have shared with you previously, we Native women have been hard at work organizing our communities to prepare for the dangers KXL poses. The man camps that house oil workers were already scary before we knew they could become petri dishes for the virus. Allowing two of them near our reservation just increases our peril.

But allow them, Trump will. He’s cynically using the pandemic to take full advantage of our inability to engage in grassroots organizing on the ground. On March 31, TC Energy announced a final decision to complete KXL, explicitly thanking the president for giving the go-ahead. Three days later, Trump tweeted his happiness.

Though TC Energy has claimed it will follow procedures to limit the spread of the virus, Republican Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has said that he won’t expect workers traveling from out of state to be quarantined. Meanwhile, here in South Dakota, Republican governor Kristi Noem has steadfastly refused to institute shelter-in-place mandates or close businesses, despite 447 documented positive tests and six deaths in our state.

We must lean on the Democrat, Bullock, to do the right thing. He has, at least, waffled on KXL. On the one hand, he said, “Look — if it’s done right, we can’t take it off the table.” On the other hand, he’s commented that the Department of State failed to adequately consider the pipeline’s environmental impacts, and he’s expressed concern about the threat to Montana’s water from a leak or spill. Bullock has also criticized the Trump administration’s failure to adequately consult with Native American tribes affected by the pipeline — a major reason to hope he’ll listen to us now.

It’s worth noting that KXL has many of the same weaknesses in its design and approval process as the Dakota Access pipeline, which — partially due to safety concerns including an inadequate leak detection system — just had its federal permits revoked by a court ruling. Let’s protect public safety and stop KXL construction.

Wopila tanka — I thank you, sincerely, for your life-saving activism!

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

P.S. I’ll tell you what’s essential: your participation. Please band together with us in calling for an end to pipeline construction during the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.