A United Nations (UN) [official website] rights group released a statement [text, PDF] earlier this month expressing concerns that the US government is ignoring treaty rights, as well as human rights, of Native Americans that are protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) [official website] released the statement after Grand Chief Edward John [profile], an expert member of the UNPFII, spent three days in the Standing Rock area and composed a report [text, PDF] of his observations. Chief John detailed the interactions he saw, the measures being taken on both sides of the conflict, and the “‘war zone’ atmosphere” that has been created. Chief John’s report and the UNPFII statement both focus on the lack of US government involvement, noting that the US has committed to protecting the rights of Native Americans through multiple treaties. Chief John stated:
The United States, as a demonstration of its recent commitments to protect against human rights violations, must live up to its international human rights commitments with respect to Indigenous peoples and swiftly reverse its current approach of criminalizing Indigenous human rights defenders – those standing up for their solemn treaty rights to lands, territories and resources and their inalienable human rights.
As attention to the conflict rises, protests continue. Hundreds of rallies are scheduled to take place [AP report] today at various locations across the nation, and Robert Kennedy, Jr. is expected to join protesters [AP report] in North Dakota.
The rights and well-being of Native Americans continue to be important issues in the United States. Last month the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against [JURIST report] two Native American tribes, allowing construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward. Previously, in September a federal judge partially granted [JURIST report] the tribe’s request to suspend the construction of the North Dakota crude oil pipeline. The judge only granted a temporary restraining order pending a final ruling. Days later, federal agencies urged [JURIST report] pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners to pause its lawful building after the federal judge ruled in the company’s favor. Also in September a UN human rights expert urged the US government to halt the construction [JURIST report] of the Dakota Access oil pipeline out of respect for the rights of affected Native Americans.