Urges Army Corps of Engineer to Consider All Options, Including Re-Routing Pipeline, & Asks DOJ to Re-double Efforts to Prevent Civil Rights Abuses
Published December 1, 2016
WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, incoming vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, condemned the violence against Tribal members and others protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and called on President Barack Obama to take urgent action to protect the protesters and address their concerns about how the pipeline could harm the water quality near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. In a letter, Udall urged the Obama administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider every available option to fully protect Tribal rights and land, including re-routing the pipeline.
Udall’s letter comes nearly three months after he first wrote to the president in opposition to the alarming use of violence against demonstrators, the vast majority of whom are peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights. On Wednesday, Udall issued the following statement:
“Over the last seven months, members of Indian nations from across North America have been demonstrating against a segment of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, which they believe threatens their water supplies and crosses the sacred ancestral land of the Standing Rock Sioux. Over 300 Tribes are represented, including several from New Mexico; it’s the largest community of Native American protesters in recent memory. They are standing up within their First Amendment rights to protect their heritage, clean air and water, and to prevent the degradation of sacred lands. And that is why I am extremely disturbed by the increasingly aggressive and violent tactics that have been used against them.
“Three months ago, I condemned the violence against protesters and called on President Obama to intervene and consult in a meaningful way with the Standing Rock Sioux and to address concerns about the safety of the pipeline and the impact it could have on the water supply. I appreciated that President Obama followed up by temporarily halting a portion of the project, while reviewing the permitting process for the river crossing, and pledging to hold consultation sessions with Tribes across the country. But the violence at the protest site has continued, with law enforcement and private security forces using inexcusable means against peaceful demonstrators, including rubber bullets, attack dogs and even water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures. Many of the protesters are from New Mexico Tribes, and one of those seriously injured was a Navajo woman from Arizona who was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. The Army Corps of Engineers and the state are working to move protesters off one camp site, and I fear the situation could escalate out of control. Both sides of this dispute should take responsibility for preventing violence, but this situation is ripe for further injury or worse.
“As the incoming vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I am asking President Obama and his administration to take action now to resolve the situation in a way that respects the sovereign rights of the Standing Rock Sioux and the civil rights of those gathered at the site. Protesters have a right to make their voices heard peacefully, and the Department of Justice should redouble its efforts to prevent civil rights abuses and prevent the situation from becoming tragic. Finally, all New Mexicans, Tribal members or not, know that water is life, and so I am calling on the president to take action before the end of his term to find a positive resolution to this situation by considering all available options to protect Tribal resources, including re-routing the pipeline to better safeguard water quality. This was done when the community of Bismarck, N.D., had concerns about the pipeline crossing a river near its water intakes, and the Standing Rock Sioux and surrounding neighbors deserve the same respect.”
The full text of the letter can be found below and here.
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