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2017-02-16 / Front Page

Oglala File Lawsuit To Stop DAPL: Mni Wiconi project a major issue

BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
LCT EDITOR


The Missouri River provides clean drinking water to tens of thousands of Lakota people through the Mni Wiconi project The Missouri River provides clean drinking water to tens of thousands of Lakota people through the Mni Wiconi project PINE RIDGE—The Oglala Sioux Tribe has asked a federal court to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“This is a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the construction and operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) until the Defendant United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) completes an environmental impact statement (EIS) that fully analyzes the impacts of the DAPL to the Tribe’s Treaty rights and rights in the Mni Wiconi Project as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA),” wrote lawyers for OST.

Two weeks ago, OST President Scott Weston promised official action in response to the White House’s legally questionable order to push through the completion of DAPL.

“The Dakota Access pipeline was approved without even considering the impact to our water rights and our drinking water,” said Weston in a statement. “The Oglala Sioux Tribe will do everything we can to stop the pipeline and to protect the water protectors defending the sacred Missouri River.”

The lawsuit that was filed Monday in federal court alleges amongst other things that President Trump’s order demanding that the Department of the Army expedite the completion of DAPL is in violation five federal laws, including the Mni Wiconi Act, and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

Many across Lakota Country understand the power of the treaties signed between tribal-nations and the federal government. Not many are aware of the details of the Mni Wiconi Act and the rights it has guaranteed to tribal-nations.

In 1988 the United States Congress created the Mni Wiconi Project to provide safe drinking water to the Pine Ridge Reservation and other Indian reservations alone near the Missouri River. The act included several rural counties in South Dakota and their non-Native residents. When congress created the act they found that their was a lack of safe drinking water available to residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Congress noted that the lack of water supplies on the Rosebud Reservation and Lower Brule Reservation restricted efforts to promote economic development on those reservations. It also found serious problems in water quantity in the rural counties of Haakon, Jackson, Jones, Lyman, Mellette, Pennington, and Stanley Counties, South Dakota. The Act acknowledged that the United States has a trust responsibility to ensure that adequate and safe water supplies are available to meet the economic, environmental, water supply, and public health needs of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Rosebud Indian Reservation, and Lower Brule Indian Reservation and that the best available, reliable, and safe rural and municipal water available to here communities was the Missouri.

The project now provides safe drinking water to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as well as to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, and the non- Indian West River/Lyman Jones Water District in South Dakota. The infrastructure endeavor today has a service area of about 12,500 square miles and provides a reliable source of potable water to a population of approximately 52,000 people.

The Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System, a component of the Project, is held in trust for the Tribe by the United States. It is the only rural water system in existence that is held in federal trust by the federal government.

The trust-relationship between tribal-nations and the federal government is a cornerstone of both American jurisprudence and Federal Indian Law that has long been upheld by the courts.

OST alleges that the original Environmental Impact Statement for Lake Oahe did not take into consideration the water rights of tribal-nations living downstream. They are asking that a new Environmental Impact Statement be conducted as ordered by President Obama prior to leaving office and that construction be halted until a court rules on the matter.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)

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