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Partial Restraining Order Leaves Sacred Sioux Sites Unprotected From Pipeline Construction

Michelle D. Anderson

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg's order will only restrict some parts of the ongoing pipeline construction by Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company. Standing Rock Sioux attorney Jan Hasselman said in a statement that the area did not include a recently discovered ancient burial and prayer site.

A federal judge has granted a partial temporary restraining order against a crude oil subsidiary that is building a pipeline in areas that include sacred sites owned by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s order will only restrict some parts of the ongoing construction by the Dakota Access pipeline company, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company. Standing Rock Sioux attorney Jan Hasselman said in a statement that the area did not include a recently discovered ancient burial and prayer site, meaning that some sacred areas in North Dakota will not be protected from the pipeline construction.

David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said in a statement that the ruling puts the tribe’s “sacred places at further risk of ruin and desecration,” according to Reuters.

Beginning this spring, Dakota Access has been developing a multibillion-dollar, 1,100-mile pipeline project to move crude oil from Bakken in North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois.

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Tension between the Sioux and allies—including members of nearly 100 other tribes—and company-hired security workers rose over the weekend, after pipeline workers reportedly used bulldozers to destroy sacred sites that had been identified in court documents filed earlier this month, according to news reports.

In a video report published by Democracy Now!, guards working for Dakota Access are shown attacking Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray on September 3. The attacked group reportedly included children and tribal elders.

The next day, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a neighboring tribe asked the U.S. District Court in D.C. to issue a temporary restraining order to halt pipeline construction.

In its response to the restraining order request, Dakota Access said protesters “stampeded” the construction area and attacked the dogs and security officers, according to Reuters.

Dakota Access has agreed to halt activity until Friday in an area representing about half the total space originally requested by the tribes, according to Reuters.

The Standing Sioux filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court in Washington D.C. against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to halt pipeline construction in July. The tribe is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to resolve legal uncertainties and stop the project, at least temporarily. In the court filing, the Sioux said the Army Corps had taken “actions in violation of multiple federal statutes that authorize the pipeline’s construction and operation.”

Native Americans and allies have also expressed concern about the project’s effect on the environment.

Boasberg on Tuesday said he would decide whether he would grant an injunction by Friday. If granted, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be required to withdraw permits allowing Dakota Access to continue with the pipeline.

Hasselman implied in a news conference attended by multiple outlets that the Sioux would appeal the court decision if Boasberg does not rule in their favor.

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