Dave Archambault Sr. spoke at George Pearl Hall Monday night to kick off Teach Week, a week of lectures hosted by the Community and Regional Planning Program.
Archambault talked about his tribal family, along with the history of U.S. and Native American relations, leading up to the Dakota Access pipeline protests.
“This school has a long and deep history in its involvement in the community, with the state, with the people of the state, of the region and we feel that this conversation is paramount at this moment,” said School of Architecture Dean Geraldine Forbes Isais.
Archambault is a long time activist for education and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is located in North and South Dakota. His son, Dave Archambault II, is the current chairman of the tribe.
Professor Ted Jojola opened the lecture by reading Donald Trump’s executive order to expedite the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline, which was issued on January 24th.
Jojola said the order “is a harbinger of things to come” for the rest of the country.
Archambault began by discussing the work of his children, from working to save the Lakota language to working for the federal government, and his family history to demonstrate their long history of working to protect their culture and land.
“These children have lived on reservations, so we have our culture within us,” he said.
He explained that the tribe has two goals in its acts of resistance: to stop the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline and build awareness to decrease dependence on fossil fuels.
Archambault covered the background of the Standing Rock camp, which began with a small camp on April 15, 2016, news first broke that the pipeline was approved.
He said the tribe feels that the lands the pipeline is being built on are their ancestral lands, because those lands were included in treaties with the U.S. government.
However, the U.S. government then changed the treaties after they were signed and, with the Pick Sloan Act of 1959, they flooded some of the lands and forced the tribe to move.
The U.S. government’s ability to unilaterally abolish treaties with Native American tribes was upheld in the Supreme Court Case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock in 1903.
Dave Meyers owned the disputed piece of land and sold it to DAPL, which Archambault said has many issues because of the U.S. government’s treaties with the tribe.
The support of celebrities and the arrest of his son brought more attention to the protest, Archambault said, adding that his son was arrested when some sacred sites were bulldozed by the company building the pipeline.
He said the protesters used non-violent resistance and the camp was based around prayer.
“Everything was non-harmful action, chaining yourself to equipment,” he said.
However, he said the response from law enforcement was violent.
“They used the attack dogs and there have really been some bad things that they’ve done to us,” Archambault said.
He said the pipeline is not safe, because there is excessive welling, and the pipeline is in an area that is prone to landslides.
“We went out on the site out there several times and there’s many instances of excessive welling,” Archambaul said. “We saw this. We know this.”
The shutoff valves in the pipeline are manually operated, he said, so if there is a rupture it may take a long time for the pipeline to be shut off.
In early December, the DAPL easement was denied and an environmental impact assessment was ordered.
After that Archambault II asked the camp to disperse.
“There’s people in a summer camp and winter’s coming and he was looking out for their safety,” Archambault Sr. said.
He discussed the consultants the tribe hired to do their own comprehensive engineering report, which will be similar to the environmental impact assessment that was halted.
Archambault also said that the company failed to properly consult with the tribe.
“We have a very ordinary pipeline that should have been built better. Consultation did not take place. There’s scant administrative records,” he said.
The camp had 450 different tribes and thousands of environmentalists, he said.
“The joy of going out there and talking everyday, it was a great great feeling,” he said.
The camp leaders voted to close the camp on January 20th because there were issues within the camp, which Archambault attributed to a lack of prayer.
Drilling for the pipeline was approved on Feb. 8th, and the camp was cleared by February 24th, but the tribe plans to continue fighting the pipeline in court, Archambault said.
He said although White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed the Trump administration has been in contact with the tribe, he claimed it has not and that the Obama administration looked out for the tribe, while Trump has not.
Three people were asked to respond to and contextualize Archambault’s lecture.
UNM professor Christine Zuni Cruz said the legal outcome of Standing Rock will be applicable to all tribal nations and that it is important for the U.S. government to try to understand indigenous legal traditions.
Cruz said there are seven legal traditions throughout the world.
“We had legal systems, principles, doctrines, ideas that were ours, embedded in the land, embedded in our languages, embedded in the way that we viewed the world, at the center of which were our ecologies and our landscapes and our relationships — both human and nonhuman — with everything that occupied the landscapes that we come from,” she said. “Without an understanding of this indigenous legal tradition it’s difficult for the other six dominant legal systems of nation states to truly understand the legal claims of the indigenous legal traditions that indigenous people still adhere to.”
Environmental law professor Clifford Villa said he believes that, because of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, the tribe has a strong case against the pipeline.
“There is a real risk here of oil spills. Pipelines fail. Pipelines, in my opinion, they’re actually one of the safest ways to transport oil,” he said. “On the other hand, you have that many miles of pipeline...they will fail.”
Isleta Pueblo Tribal council member Verna Teller said that the situation at Standing Rock rattled the cages of some tribal leaders and reminded them that the work they need to do to protect resources is never going to end.
“All these environmental threats are going on all over this country, very near or on tribal lands, and it’s very real and it’s a wake up call for all of us,” she said.
Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.