A growing number of Oklahoma tribes are joining with national voices to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
From the Cherokee Nation to the Eastern Shawnee Tribe, officials from a variety of Oklahoma tribes have sent letters of support, resolutions and in some cases, supplies, to the men and women protesting the proposed Dakota Access pipeline.
Earlier this month, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman David Archambault II asked Native Americans across the country to show support of the tribe's effort to block the Dakota Access pipeline, a 1,200-mile pipeline that would take oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota to southern Illinois.
Tribal members have opposed the pipeline, saying federal officials, including the U.S. Corps of Engineers and pipeline owners, Energy Transfer Partners, have not included tribal officials in discussions concerning the initiative, even though the pipeline travels through the tribe's treaty and ancestral lands.
In call to action update, Steve Sitting Bear, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe External Affairs Director, said on Aug. 24, more than 87 tribal nations have taken action to support his tribe's opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, including the National Congress of American Indians.
In a statement, released on Aug. 18, NCAI officials said they support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's efforts for a variety of reasons.
“Pipeline projects, and the risks associated with pipeline ruptures, have irreversible harmful impacts on cultural places, aquifers, and the environment,” the statement reads. “As first stewards of this land, tribes fully understand that protecting our water and natural resources is paramount.
“Any resource development must be done as tribes see fit, so these projects can coexist with our traditions and cultures to ensure that our resources are preserved for future generations.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 24, members of the Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma's business committee passed a resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Chief Glenna Wallace said they did so, because of the way the tribe's sovereignty was put into question, and because of the way the pipeline - which is projected to carry more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day, “may threaten public health and welfare on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.”
Wallace said it appears federal officials did not take into account native issues surrounding the land and water, and that a “lack of consultation before hand,” is at the root of the opposition.
“Telling them after the fact is not the same as consulting before hand,” Wallace said. “There's miles of difference between the two positions.”
Wallace said the issues surrounding safe water impact native and non-native alike.
“All of us want safe water,” Wallace said. “That's the bottom line. If the pipeline leaks it will impact the Missouri River, which will affect so many of us.”
On Friday, Aug. 26, Wallace said she planned to get in touch with Archambault and other tribal officials to see what needs exist. She anticipates tribal members will send some form of support, depending upon what is needed in the coming weeks.
Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma
Ottawa Tribe Chief Ethel Cook said the tribe sent a letter of support to the Standing Rock Sioux on Aug. 18 “standing in agreement” to its opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
She said the lack of due diligence, by both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and pipeline officials in examining the Standing Rock Sioux's tribal homeland and water resources, led officials to send the letter.
“Even though it's way up there [in North Dakota], the effect there will eventually trickle down and affect all of the tribes,” Cook said. “We always stand with our brothers ... everybody forgets, we were here first.”
Cook said she compares the actions of the federal government in this case, to some of the issues local tribes face with the Grand River Dam Authority and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, concerning the levels of Grand Lake, and how it impacts tribal lands and businesses.
Cook said she hopes, if the tables were turned and needed, other tribes would show similar support to the Ottawa Tribe.
Cook said at this point, tribal officials have not sent supplies or monetary donations to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
“We're in a holding pattern, waiting to see where we can help,” Cook said. “We started with the letter. I know they are getting inundated with assistance.
“We may wait until it slows down, and is not such a hot topic. Sooner or later, it will stop being in the news, with people forgetting. That's when they will need backup (help).”
Anna McKibben, public relations director for the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, said the tribe's business committee passed a resolution on Aug. 20, to show support for the protestors.
“The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma is committed to supporting the Sanding Rock Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Access Pipeline as it is a threat to health, welfare and safety of their people, as well as their livestock,” the resolution signed by John L. Berrey, chairman, states. “We understand this Access Pipeline may seem as a more direct, and cost efficient solution, however the risks far outweigh the benefits.”
McKibben said while the tribe has not formally sent supplies to the protesters, some members have taken supplies to North Dakota.
“I'm when they get down to needing water and supplies, our tribe will step up to help out as needed, however we can,” McKibben said.
Earlier this week, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker released a statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
This came after members of the tribal council voted 15 to 2 to send a letter of support to Archambault on Aug. 19.
“The Standing Rock people have an inherent right to protect their homelands, their historic and sacred sites, their natural resources, their drinking water and their families from this potentially dangerous pipeline,” Baker said, in the statement. “The Cherokee Nation supports safe and responsible energy development, and energy development in Indian Country is only responsible if it respects the sovereign rights of tribal governments and includes meaningful consultation with tribal officials.
“As Indian people, we have a right to protect our lands and protect our water rights. That’s our responsibility to the next seven generations.
“The Standing Rock Sioux should be allowed a place at the table to express their legitimate concerns on a pipeline plan that could be detrimental to their tribe for many future generations.”
On Friday, Aug. 26, volunteers from Cherokee Nation organized and shipped 19 pallets of bottled water to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
In a video released by the tribe, Baker made a phone call to Archambault, letting him know about the donation.
In addition to water, Baker also sent Archambault a specially designed blanket called a “one fire blanket,” which, he told Archambault, signifies that everyone comes from one fire.
“We're just proud to stand and help and support you all,” Baker said.
Around the state
• Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
On Tuesday, Aug. 23, members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation tribal council issued an official resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux.
The resolution cited concerns about the potential of future oil spills, in light of “recent spills upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,” including “840,000 gallons of oil near Tioga, North Dakota in October 2013,” and “51,000 gallons of oil released into the Yellowstone River upstream from Glendive, Montana resulting in the shutdown of the community's water system for 6,000 residents in January 2015.”
It also cited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval for the pipeline “to run within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation without proper consultation and consent,” as another reason for the resolution.
Thompson Gouge, public relations director for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said a few citizens spent part of the last week gathering items, including donations of water, with plans to send the things to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the Cherokee Nation truck.
• Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, issued a letter on Monday, Aug. 22, in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
In it, he cites the pipelines, which run through the tribe's treaty territory, as a base of understanding for what the Standing Rock Sioux is going through.
“We stand in solidarity with you as you are fighting for your right to have access to clean water, for which no one should have to fight,” Batton's letter states. “As Indian people, we must continue to fight to preserve our rights, customs, and traditional ways.
“We must continue to stand together, to protect each other and all of Indian Country.”
• Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma
The business committee for the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma passed a resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, on Aug. 18, citing its experience with “unchecked fracking and associated waste water disposal well operations” in Kay and Noble counties, and a “growing epidemic of man-made earthquakes” which “is adversely impacting the Ponca Nation due to oil and gas operations.”
The committee also cited its experience with a “serious water supply crisis” in the past few years, as well as water quality issues, as another reason it supported the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.