Courtesy Yankton Sioux Tribe
Yankton Sioux Tribe Business and Claims Committee Chairman Robert Flying Hawk.

Yankton Sioux Tribe Sues US Army Corps, USFWS Over Dakota Access


The Yankton Sioux Tribe, Ihanktonwan Oyate, is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for allowing the Dakota Access oil pipeline to go through without a full environmental impact study or meaningful consultation.

“As chairman of the Ihanktonwan, I and the Ihanktonwan Oyate support the efforts our relatives at Standing Rock and Cheyenne River are taking to protect what we as the Oceti Sakowin hold sacred,” said Business and Claims Committee Chairman Robert Flying Hawk in a statement from the tribe. “We stand with them and all our relatives in taking this action in defense of our people.”

Nearly 200 tribes have expressed support and sent delegations to the prayer camp along the Missouri River to help the Standing Rock Sioux ward off the Dakota Access oil pipeline from being routed under the river.

The Yankton Sioux are claiming violations of the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. They are demanding meaningful consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The United Nations Declaration reflects what all Native people understand, that our complete world view is based on relationship—relationship with the land, water, and all living things dictates how we conduct ourselves on Mother Earth,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, chairperson for the Ihanktonwan Treaty Steering Committee.

“Those in power only have relationship with themselves and their sources of power; in this case, how much money they can make,” she said. “It is a sad state of affairs, but we will persevere. I pray for those who destroy sacred sites as there are consequences in the natural world.”

The tribe also invoked the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, which like the U.N. Declaration, requires “free, prior and informed consent” from Indigenous Peoples on projects affecting their lands, according to official language spelled out in both documents.

The 36-page complaint also refers to places sacred to the Yankton Sioux flanking the James River, which along with the Missouri is among the 200-plus waterways that would be traversed by the pipeline. The complaint states that while Dakota Access LLC maintains that it surveyed the cultural resources along the 1,178-mile-long pipeline route, “these surveys were performed by non-local and non-Yankton consultants hired by Dakota Access LLC who, respectfully, do not possess the cultural knowledge to understand the significance of and in some cases even identify sites.”

The complaint asks for a withdrawal of permits as well as for an injunction forbidding future construction until all consultation protocols have been followed.

“The Corps and FWS failed to act in good faith with respect to the Tribe in their decisions,” the Yankton Sioux complaint said. “Because the Corps and FWS failed to obtain the Tribe’s free, prior and informed consent prior to issuing their decisions to authorize and permit construction of the pipeline, their actions were arbitrary, capricious, abuses of discretion, and not in accordance with law and must be held unlawful and set aside.”

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