Tangled Web of Lies: U.S. Army Corps' DAPL Historic Properties "Review"

Cannonball River in Sioux Treaty territory, pictured by Gabe Galanda

Cannonball River in Sioux Treaty territory, pictured by Gabe Galanda

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave! When we first practice to deceive." --Sir Walter Scott

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' "review" of historic properties in ancestral Sioux Treaty lands, associated with the "Dakota" Access Pipeline (DAPL) project, is fundamentally dishonest---especially considering the easement the Corps must still issue to allow drilling underneath Lake Oahe and the Missouri River pursuant to the federal Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. 

In fact, the Corps have woven together a tangled web of lies, and are telling those lies to the Great Sioux Peoples and the entire country.

Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Corps must take into account the effects of its undertaking---here, the Corps' "grant [of] an easement for the DAPL project to be placed under Lake Oahe"---on historic and cultural properties, including Sioux sacred sites.

Lake Oahe sits at the confluence of the Cannonball River into the Missouri River, and constitutes reserved Sioux Treaty territory; in fact, the eastern boundary of Ft. Laramie Treaty lands. And as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe previously advised the Corps, according to Corps' own words:  

At the Cannonball Ranch, there are burials of notable Standing Rock memebers [sic] and their families including Maltida Galpin, Alma Parken, Louisa Degray Van Solen, and Charles Picotte, among whom are signatories on the Treaty of Fort Laramie. There is also an unmarked grave of Mrs. Harrison at the mouth of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers.

The Corps ostensibly reviewed the effects that Enbridge Energy Partners' horizontal directional drilling under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River would have on such Standing Rock Sioux historic and cultural properties, concluding:

there will be no direct or indirect effects to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.  This includes a lack of impact to its lands, cultural artifacts, water quality or quantity, treaty hunting and fishing rights, environmental quality, or socio-economic status.

That conclusion comes as no surprise when one ascertains the Corps' identified area of potential effect (APE), which generally means the geographic area or areas within which an undertaking may directly or indirectly cause alterations in the character or use of historic properties.

For DAPL, the Corps' so-called APE was only those bore holes on both sides of Lake Oahe and Missouri River that would be needed to run the DAPL underneath the lake.  In a 1,261-page document titled "Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact," the Corps admits

The APE for this project will not include construction of any portion of the pipeline that extends past the bore pit locations.

Among other geographic areas, the APE does not even include the lands "under Lake Oahe" that will be subject to horizontal directional drilling so that DAPL can run beneath the Missouri River---i.e., lands "under Lake Oahe" and the Missouri River that require a Corps easement for drilling.

This is an exceedingly narrow---and illegal---APE.  Indeed, how can the Corps, in good faith, justify needing to issue a federal easement for drilling an oil pipeline "under Lake Oahe" and Missouri River, while concluding that the APE is simply boring pits on each side of the Lake and River?  

They can't.  The Corps are lying to themselves, to the Sioux Peoples, and to us all.

For sake of the truth, the APE includes---and must, via the U.S. District Court or any higher court, still include---Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, as well as the vast Sioux historic and cultural properties that surround DAPL's proposed crossing of those sacred waters.  

Until then, the Corps' 1,261-page Section 106 "review" will remain fundamentally dishonest, and constitute the latest set of bold-faced lies told by the United States to the Great Sioux Peoples.

Gabriel S. Galanda is the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. Gabe is a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes, belonging to the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California. He opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).