"For indigenous peoples, the environment is a living entity that contains our life sources as well as our sacred sites and heritage. The environment is an important part of our lives and any threats to it impacts our families, ancestors and future generations. It is therefore imperative that the United States respects and recognizes the intrinsic, inter-related rights of Sioux and their spiritual traditions, history, philosophy, and especially their rights to their lands and territories. The world is watching what is happening in North Dakota."
"The pipeline would adversely affect not only the security and access to drinking water of the Sioux and millions of people living downstream of the Missouri River," the UN statement claimed, "but it would also destroy archaeological, historical and sacred sites of the Sioux."
Fake claims about the water protectors assert that during the 13-month review process, none of these concerns arose from tribal members. The Bismark Tribune, however, reported that Standing Rock leaders have repeatedly objected to the way the Army Corps of Engineers evaluated the route.
Fake claims accuse the water protectors of waiting until the last second to file a lawsuit. Of course these same news stories consistently fail to report that the tribe's lawsuit came when it did, not because the tribal members didn't get around to it, but because the Finding of No Significant Impact and Final Environmental Assessments were not signed and released to the public until the week of July 25, 2016.
In April, a GoFundMe fundraiser named "The Official -Sacred Stone Camp" was created to help the water protectors who were already at the camp. The timeline expressed by the water protectors actually mirrors a report in NPR that claims the protests began to really build up in April, just as it was becoming abundantly clear that the federal government had decided that the Standing Rock Sioux's concerns and opposition were simply not significant enough to stop the pipeline.
It's not the water protectors' fault the Dakota Access Pipeline was started long before the USACE and Energy Transfer Partners were able to get their reports completed for the area that affects the Sioux. Maybe Energy Transfer Partners should have made sure the entire project had the all-clear before they built right up into unceded Sioux territory.
Fake claims say that the water protectors are only now claiming that the area has any cultural significance. That's also not true.
In the document available on the USACE's website, lo and behold, it states, that the USACE recognizes that much of the region has been inhabited for approximately 12,000 years by humans and more recently by societies.
"Multiple sites have been explored that suggest the area was inhabited by societies adapted for lifestyles on the Plains and in the various geographical regions of the state dating back to 6000 BC. The current Project Areas have a moderate to high probability for archaeological deposits based on proximity to permanent water sources, topography, lack of significant ground disturbances, and depositional processes."
The final document released by the USACE states, contrary to the fake news and social media rumors, there were multiple conversations that brought up the same concerns the water protectors at Standing Rock assert currently. Just as is the case currently, early on, the Native Americans voiced concerns over environmental and cultural impacts of the pipeline. The USACE said that there were government-to-government consultations with tribal representatives, meetings, site visits, conference calls, and emails. Yet, in April, 2016, a declaration of "No Historic Properties Affected" was issued.
Just because people in charge decide that the pipeline will be no big deal, doesn't suddenly make the pipeline no big deal to the water protectors.
The water protectors have the law on their side. They have their right to free speech, their right to assemble, their right to the free exercise of their religion and their property rights afforded to them by two treaties. They also have countless other rights afforded to them as indigenous people of this land. All of those rights have been trampled on over the course of the last year.
Don't believe the fake claims. The water protectors are not the bad guys of this story.
[Featured Image by Dark Sevier/Flickr/Cropped and Resized/CC BY-SA 2.0]