Tribe appeals judge's ruling, seeks new injunction to protect sacred sites

NORTH OF CANNON BALL, N.D. -- The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is appealing a federal judge's ruling on the Dakota Access Pipeline and is seeking an injunction to protect sacred sites while the appeal is pending.

Life continues in the protest campsite south of the Dakota Access Pipeline site Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, north of Cannon Ball, N.D.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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NORTH OF CANNON BALL, N.D. - The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is appealing a federal judge's ruling on the Dakota Access Pipeline and is seeking an injunction to protect sacred sites while the appeal is pending.

The tribe has filed a notice of appeal of the Friday, Sept. 9, ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg that denied the tribe's request to halt pipeline construction while the lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proceeds.

While the appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is pending, attorney Jan Hasselman argued in court records the court should issue an injunction to halt pipeline construction around Lake Oahe to "prevent additional losses and desecration of grave sites."

"There is a high likelihood of additional sites in this area that the tribes should be given an opportunity to survey for, and seek to protect before they are destroyed," wrote Hasselman, an attorney for environmental law firm Earthjustice.

The Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior issued a joint statement Friday that said pipeline construction will temporarily be halted on Corps land in and around Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock reservation.


The agencies also asked Dakota Access to voluntarily stop construction 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe.

Dakota Access has declined to comment on whether the company will voluntarily stop construction in that area.

"Considering they need a permit from the Army Corps to cross under Lake Oahe, thumbing their nose at the Army Corps sounds like a bad strategy," Hasselman told Forum News Service Saturday.

The appeal could become more of a formality now that the federal agencies have intervened, Hasselman said, but the tribe needs to continue the legal process until it has more clarification on the next steps.

"At some point in all this, people may realize that events have overtaken this litigation and we won't pursue it," Hasselman said.

Standing Rock is seeking the court to order an injunction for 20 miles within Lake Oahe while its appeal is pending.

North Dakota's Historic Preservation Office plans to look into whether bulldozers clearing a path for the Dakota Access Pipeline destroyed burial grounds and other sacred sites identified the day before in a court filing by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Dakota Access says no sacred sites were destroyed and claims that six of the sites identified by the tribe were directly over the existing Northern Border natural gas pipeline and "could not possibly be original artifacts."


The Corps filed a notice opposing the tribe's appeal of the judge's ruling. The agency also said it does not oppose extending a temporary restraining order until Sept. 16, when the parties meet again for a status conference. But that temporary restraining order only halts construction on part of the land the tribe is seeking to protect.

"The Corps will continue to assess and possibly revise this position in consideration of public safety concerns," the agency said in court records.

Meanwhile, Dakota Access opponents say they intend to continue camping north of the reservation while the legal matters are ongoing. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said Saturday there are still tribes that want to come and show their solidarity.

Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said some people may leave this weekend, but he expects many to stay and watch what Dakota Access does next.

"Those of us here in this camp are cautious and are prepared for Dakota Access to move ahead," Goldtooth said. "We firmly believe that this company who has invested billions of dollars is not going to give up so easily."

The North Dakota National Guard continues to be in a support role at an information checkpoint on State Highway 1806, with a couple dozen guard members rotating to fill those shifts, said Guard spokeswoman Amber Balken.

Additional Guard members were put on alert Thursday but have not been activated, Balken said Saturday morning.

Law enforcement officers from across the state are assisting the Morton County Sheriff's Office, with support from 10 city agencies, 12 county sheriff's departments and numerous state agencies, including some from parole and probation, said Morton County spokeswoman Donnell Preskey.

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