UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz [official website] called [press release] Friday for the US to adopt a consistent approach to indigenous land rights in pipeline projects. The Special Rapporteur was concerned [transcript] about how indigenous peoples were not fully consulted on the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), leaving them with disruptions to their land. She said that she was encouraged by how indigenous people were trying to engage new technologies to utilize their property as well as a recent report that lays out how the government should try to approach similar pipelines in the future. However, she was concerned about how current projects are being pushed through with harrowing consequences for indigenous peoples without their meaningful inclusion in the decision making process.
But challenges remain. The contemporary executive action that provides the most direct guidance on consultation with tribes, Executive Order 13175, while well intentioned, has developed into a confusing and disjointed framework that suffers from loopholes, ambiguity, and a general lack of accountability. The regulatory regime has failed to ensure effective and informed consultations with tribal governments. The breakdown of communication and lack of good faith involvement in the review of federal projects has left tribal governments functionally unable to participate in consequential dialogue with the United States on projects affecting their lands, territories, and resources.
The Special Rapporteur called on the US government to develop stronger relationships with the tribes and create specific standards for future interactions.
The pipeline project has created a legal battle between the government and the indigenous nations. A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia in February turned down a request [JURIST report] to stop construction on the final stretch of the DAPL. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe had filed [JURIST report] a legal challenge in an attempt to stop the construction. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) granted [JURIST report] the final permit for the DAPL after an order from President Donald Trump to expedite the process.