Jenn Orator
Water protectors try to cross a creek to stop the desecration of gravesites on a hill on federal land by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline. They were met with mace and pepper spray by North Dakota authorities stationed along the shore.

DAPL Desecrated Sacred Sites, Took 10 Days to Tell State, as Human Rights Abuses Continue

Chelsey Luger

Under orders from the Army Corps of Engineers, Morton County law enforcement acted on the water protectors at Standing Rock with violence again on Wednesday November 3, shooting “non-lethal bullets” at point blank range and macing demonstrators who attempted to prevent destruction of a gravesite of two women, Alma Perkin and Matilda Gain, and other sacred sites and artifacts discovered on Lakota treaty land near the river north of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where construction is currently taking place.

Some members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC)—the governing body that was responsible for issuing a permit to Energy Transfer Partners to build the Dakota Access Pipeline on North Dakota land—has stated that Energy Transfer Partners has failed to uphold its commitment to the permit agreement and that the company has not been transparent with the PSC in light of a recent discovery in which pipeline workers found at least one sacred cultural site during construction. The site and artifacts were discovered on October 17, but the company failed to report that to the PSC until October 27, 10 days after its discovery.

“I was really disappointed that the company failed to notify us about this when it happened,” said Julie Fedorchak of the North Dakota PSC. “This trust [between Dakota Access LLC and the ND PSC] demands an exchange of full and prompt disclosure of key information, and that was neglected in this case.”

In an attempt to defend their actions, Energy Transfer Partners has stated that while they did not immediately report discovery of the artifacts to the appropriate entity, they did immediately report the site to the North Dakota Office of Historic Preservation.

But according to Jon Eagle Sr., the Historic Preservation Officer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the actions of the company are a clear violation of the conditions of the Public Service Commission Permit and Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

“DAPL and the State Archaeologist knew [about the sites] and they didn’t say a damn thing,” Eagle stated in a Facebook post. “They knowingly destroyed sites of religious and cultural significance to our tribe. This is clear evidence of anticipatory demolition. The PSC should revoke their permit pending an investigation.”

Dave Archambault II, the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, referenced the incident in an interview with Democracy Now! on Thursday November 3 and seconded the sentiment that Energy Transfer Partners’ failure to disclose the sacred site is enough for the PSC to halt the project.

“The company [Energy Transfer Partners] continues to ignore the federal government,” Archambault told Democracy Now! “That’s cause for the state to ask the company to cease work. That’s cause for the Corps of Engineers to say, ‘Shut down now.’ You’re not going to get this permit because you continue to violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights. But the company is not going to do that, because they feel they have every legal right. And this is driven by money and greed.”

The continued construction of the pipeline project, which has now reached the Missouri River banks, is also a direct disregard of the federal government’s request that the company voluntarily stop construction within 20 miles of the river until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues all permits for the project, which they have not yet done. President Barack Obama stated in an interview with NowThis that the Corps is considering the possibility of a reroute.

RELATED: Obama ‘Will Do the Right Thing’: Standing Rock Welcomes Potential DAPL Rerouting

In the meantime, those who continue to protect the water and demonstrate near construction remain frustrated with North Dakota State Chief Archaeologist Paul Picha and the State Historic Preservation Office. According to administrators of the Sacred Stone Camp social media channels, those entities are working hand in hand with Dakota Access LLC (the Energy Transfer Partners building the pipeline) and are thus failing to appropriately carry out their duties to preserve sacred sites.

 “You have failed in your job as a historic preservation officer,” read one post on the Sacred Stone Camp official page. “You have desecrated burial sites and erased Indigenous history. You should be ashamed.” 

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