Published September 21, 2016
NEW YORK – In an unusual act of advocacy, some 1,200 museum directors, archaeologists, anthropologists and historian have expressed solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its fight against the Dakota Access pipeline.
The Natural History Museum, based in New York, initiated a sign-on letter for museum directors and staff, archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians to denounce the destruction of American Indian burial grounds and sacred sites by the Dakota Access Pipeline company.
Part of the letter sent to the White House reads:
“The destruction of these sacred sites adds yet another injury to the Lakota, Dakota, and other Indigenous Peoples who bear the impacts of fossil fuel extraction and transportation.”
The letter, sent to President Obama, the United States Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers this week, expresses support for the Tribes’ treaty rights, denounces the destruction of sacred sites, and calls for meaningful consultation with the tribe and their input in decision-making.
“It is unusual for museum professionals and scientists to engage in advocacy. It speaks to the critical nature of this issue that they have made the decision to raise their voices about the Dakota Access pipeline. The significance of the cultural artifacts along the pipeline’s proposed route is simply too great to sacrifice for a fossil fuel pipeline that would threaten not only these artifacts, but also land, water, tribal sovereignty, and the climate,” Beka Economopoulos, director of The Natural History Museum told Native News Online on Wednesday.
“The destruction of these sacred sites adds yet another injury to the Lakota, Dakota, and other Indigenous Peoples who bear the impacts of fossil fuel extraction and transportation,” the letter signers state. “If constructed, this pipeline will continue to encourage oil consumption that causes climate change, all the while harming those populations who contributed little to this crisis.”
The letter has galvanized unprecedented from support from these communities, with hundreds signed on in just the first 24 hours. There are now 1,280 signatories. 50 of those are executive directors of museums and institutions of archaeology or anthropology, including Smithsonian, Field Museum, American Museum of Natural History, and others. While the majority of the signatures are from the United States, museum staff and scientists from around the world, including Australia, Guatemala, Italy, and Brazil have signed on.
The full text of the letter and list of signers is available exclusively here.
“What the Standing Rock Sioux are going through is just one example of a systemic and historical truth around how extractive and polluting infrastructure is forced upon Native communities,” said James Powell, Former President and Director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and former President of the Franklin Museum of Science. “It is long past time for us to abandon fossil fuel projects that harm Native communities and threaten the future of our planet.”
“Professional archaeologists have grown weary of watching federal agencies cowboy together their own set of rules to frame the circumstances at hand—in this case, the Army Corps of Engineers handling of Section 106 compliance (National Historic Preservation Act) for the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said David Hurst Thomas, Curator at the American Museum of Natural History in NY and Founding Trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. “It is too much to ask our feds to obey the same environmental and historical protection laws as the rest of us?”