Historical Context for Standing Rock: The Civic Lab at Skokie Public Library
First Fort Laramie Treaty (the Horse Creek Treaty) signed by the United States and representatives of Arapaho, Arikara, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Crow, Hidatsa, Mandan, and Sioux nations to guarantee safe passage of settlers to California in exchange for goods and services. Ten to fifteen thousand gathered in what is the largest gathering of Plains Nations in history. Many nations never receive payment from the United States.
The Fort Laramie Treaty guarantees Sioux reservation land including the Black Hills, and hunting rights in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
The Great Sioux War begins after gold is discovered in Black Hills and settlers rush to the area, prompting the United States Army to violate the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Colonel Custer attacks Sioux and seizes the Black Hills. During the Battle of Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn), Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho forces kill Custer and a large portion of the U.S. 7th Cavalry.
In Elk v. Wilkins, the United States Supreme Court holds the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to all persons born in the U.S. does not apply to Indians, even those born within geographic confines of U.S.
In Winters v. United States, the United States Supreme Court clarifies Indian reservation rights to water by ruling that Indian reservations have water use rights that cannot be blocked through water projects.
Indians are unilaterally made citizens of the United States, furthering the project of assimilating Native nations into the United States rather than recognizing their sovereignty.
Congress passes the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Plan, a massive water infrastructure project meant to increase hydropower, navigability, fishing and wildlife, and recreation along the Missouri River and its tributaries. In building these projects, the Army Corps of Engineers violates the Fort Laramie Treaties and Winters doctrine supporting the sovereignty of tribal lands, consultation, and access to water.
Construction begins on the Lake Oahe dam for the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, and is completed in 1962. The Lake Oahe dam destroys more Native land than any other water project in the United States, and eliminates 90% of timber land on the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne Sioux Reservations, along with grazing and agricultural land.
U.S. government rules that the U.S. illegally seized the Black Hills in 1877, and offers $15.5 million (1877 price of the land) plus $105 million (5% interest on the land over 103 years). The Lakota refuse and demand return of land from the United States.
President Obama speaks at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota promoting the need to help reservations create jobs. At the time, some 63% of able workers at Standing Rock were unemployed on the 2.3 million-acre reservation, which is home to some 850 residents.
In February, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the federal government body in charge of the nation’s waterways, initiates the Dakota Access Pipeline Project. By December, The Corps publishes an environmental assessment stating that “the Standing Rock THPO had indicated to DAPL that the Lake Oahu site avoided impacts to tribally significant sites.” The Corps eventually receives critical letters on the assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Interior, and the American Council on Historical Preservation (ACHP). Other tribes whose ancestral lands are slated to be crossed by the pipeline voice their concerns in solidarity with Standing Rock, including the Osage Nation and Iowa Tribe THPO, who wrote to the ACHP: “We have not been consulted in an appropriate manner about the presence of traditional cultural properties, sites, or landscapes vital to our identity and spiritual well-being.”
Regulators in North Dakota approved the pipeline unanimously in spite of landowners alleging that representatives of the Dakota Access project had used strong arm tactics.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers encountered near unanimous opposition to the pipeline during a meeting for Native Americans.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved 200 water crossings for the pipeline and three easements (as in, the right for someone to use someone else’s property) for the pipeline. The easements included crossings at the Mississippi River, Lake Sakakawea and at Lake Oahe, a sacred site for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The easements would need to be approved by federal regulators and Congress before work could begin.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed suit against federal regulators saying that a potential spill would threaten tribal drinking water and that the pipeline threatens sacred tribal land in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act and other laws.
A federal judge heard arguments from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lawyers, federal lawyers and Dakota Access lawyers. Standing Rock Sioux argued that they were not afforded the opportunity to comment on the pipeline route while the federal government said that that opportunity had been afforded to them. Outside of the courthouse in Washington, D.C., a rally featuring celebrities like Susan Sarandon and Shailene Woodley supported the tribe. At least 20 people had been arrested by this point at protests in North Dakota.
The protests in North Dakota turned violent when a private security company hired by the pipeline let dogs loose on protesters. North Dakota Gov. Terry Brandstad said he would authorize State Patrol to make arrests at the site where hundreds of people had shown up to camp.
The U.S. district judge ruled against the Standing Sioux Tribe in the morning but said that one particular area was barred from construction. Later that day, the federal government makes the surprise announcement that it was voluntarily halting work on the project.
An arrest warrant was issued for Amy Goodman, a journalist with Democracy Now who had been covering the protests. The previous week, Goodman and her team had been at the protests and filmed security forces using dogs against protesters and spraying them with pepper spray. That report went viral and was picked up by several major cable news channels.
The CEO of Dakota Access assured employees in a letter, also obtained by the media, that they were committed to building the pipeline. The company had reportedly spent over a billion dollars on equipment. Protesters had damaged some of that equipment.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals removed an injunction on private lands allowing for the pipeline to continue there. The federal government voluntary halt remains in place for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Land nearby.
Activists disrupted the flow of millions of gallons of oil running between Canada in the U.S. The activists cut padlocks and chains to go into remote oil flow stations. There was no long term damage, activists said they had studied how to shut off the valves safely but the oil industry said that subsequent pressure buildup could have led to environmental damage from the shut offs.
A North Dakota judge rejected charges against Goodman.
An independent expert hired by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Richard Kuprewicz of Accufacts, Inc., a consulting firm that advises government agencies and industry about pipelines) finds that the government’s environmental assessment of the Dakota Access pipeline’s environmental impact was inadequate.
After the surprise presidential victory of Donald Trump, activists and tribal leaders expressed hope that President Barack Obama would kill the pipeline indefinitely. The pipeline developers had noted that they had finished construction up to the land where federal regulators had denied access. Analysts said that the pipeline was more likely than not to be finished eventually.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers announces they are delaying an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline project until it conducts further environmental review with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline files a lawsuit charging the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has no right to delay easement to pipeline construction.
Police blasted nearly 400 protesters with water jets and chemical sprays in freezing cold temperatures and peppered them with rubber bullets.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issues a statement calling on President Obama to deny easement, investigate pipeline safety and protect tribal sovereignty.
Protesters and the oil company argued over what exactly happened at the Nov. 20 protests after one protester was hit by an explosion, tearing apart her arm and exposing bone. The protester, a 21-year-old woman from New York, was initially facing amputation but that appeared less and less likely as she retrieved treatment.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that the area being used to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline will be closed by Dec. 5. Anyone found to be on "Corps-managed land" north of the Cannonball River after that date will be considered trespassing and subject to prosecution.