Published October 1, 2016
CANNON BALL, NORTH DAKOTA – The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe strongly disputes the claim that there were no sacred sites contained in the ground destroyed September 3 by the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
A preliminary internal memo from the State Historical Society of North Dakota states there were no human remains or significant sites found in the construction zone.
“It is my understanding that the Chief Archaeologist of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, has an ongoing investigation regarding the destruction of important cultural resources and gravesites along a portion of the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,” said Jon Eagle Sr., the Standing Rock Sioux’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. “That investigation has not been completed, so any reports regarding the conclusions of the State’s investigation are premature.”
“On Sept. 2, the Tribe provided vitally important documentation regarding a number of sacred sites, including stone features and burials, along a two mile stretch in the pipeline’s path. The following day, Dakota Access sent construction crews to that specific place, and bulldozed the entire area. This terrible and intentional action was taken without consulting with Tribal or State historic preservation officials. The Tribe has strongly objected to this desecration of our sacred sites. And we have called on the State Historical Society of North Dakota to take appropriate action to issue a stop work order to prevent additional harm to sites.”
The Tribe is not alone in its effort to see that the destruction of its sacred sites is properly addressed. In a letter to President Obama, and the Departments of Justice, Interior and Army, more than 1,200 archaeologists and other professionals wrote: ‘As archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, and museum workers committed to responsible stewardship, we are invested in the preservation and interpretation of archaeological and cultural heritage for the common good. We join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in denouncing the recent destruction of ancient burial sites, places of prayer and other significant cultural artifacts sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people.’
The Section 106 Review Process under The National Historic Preservation Act, Section 101(d)(6)(B) requires federal agencies to consult with any Indian tribe that attaches religious and cultural significance to historic properties that may be affected by an undertaking.
“The Tribe has particular expertise in the identification and protection of sites that are important to the Tribe’s own culture,” said Eagle. “For this reason, it is important for the state’s Chief Archaeologist to consult with my office and to conduct a joint comprehensive review on the ground. I am confident that if the Chief Archaeologist is willing to work together in this way, that will lead to a fair decision that will recognize and protect our sacred sites.”
Tim Mentz Sr. has in the past served as the Standing Rock Sioux’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. Today, he is a Traditional Cultural Specialist and consultant with Makoche Wowapi LLC, which is dedicated to the identification and protection of Dakota and Lakota cultural heritage sites.
Mentz and his team surveyed the land in question and noted rare and significant sites.
“Archaeologists don’t see these things,” he said. “People from the State Historical Society just walked right past those, because they don’t have the connection that we have to this land and to our history and stories.”
The Tribe also disputes DAPL’s claims regarding sacred sites. There are currently two different maps outlining the locations of historical artifacts: one produced by DAPL and one produced by the Tribe. At issue, says the Tribe, is that DAPL has provided no indication of where its data came from or identified the cultural experts who contributed to the map.
“We think it is important to set the record straight on the many false claims being made in regards to our sacred places,” said Mentz. “In court filings, DAPL claims that its own workers identified no sacred sites within the work area. It is outrageous to suggest that a construction crew can conduct an assessment of this type.”
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