Statement by the International Indian Treaty Council: Just two weeks after President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order and two memorandums paving the way to expedite the permitting of extractive projects such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, the U.S. Department of the Army announced it would grant the final easement needed to finish the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, according to a court filing Tuesday, February 7, 2017.
These fast tracked actions led by the new U.S. President and supported by the Republican majority display a flagrant disregard for the federal legal process already engaged in by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, cutting short its publically stated intent to conduct a full environmental impact assessment and the public comment period associated with it.
Given Trump’s campaign statements and his personal financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, as well as his apparent disdain and/or lack of awareness for both federal and international human rights law, his pronouncements, while shocking and heart wrenching in their utter callousness, were not unexpected. These actions, along with the appointment of the former CEO of Exxon Oil, responsible for the oil spill that devastated Indigenous Peoples in the coastal areas of Alaska in 1989, as the Secretary of State, are an ominous foreshadowing of the shape of things to come.
Undaunted by these recent developments, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) quickly responded to the Army’s announcement Tuesday, denouncing the Administration’s continued defiance of the law. The SRST also vowed to vigorously pursue a legal challenge. Consistent with our previous statement by the International Indian Treaty Council in support of the SRST, it is our position that these actions taken by the President ignore both federal and international law to which the U.S. is obligated, including its legally-binding commitments under the Treaties concluded with the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota (“Great Sioux Nation”). The International Indian Treaty Council again asserts that President does not have the legal or moral authority to violate the U.S. Constitution, which states “treaties are the supreme law of the land.”
These Executive Orders and memorandums, as well as others issued recently and recklessly by Trump, must continue to be challenged as they will have far-reaching and detrimental affects on the environment, human rights defenders, and Indigenous Peoples overall, within and outside the United States.
The President’s January 28th memorandum to restructure the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council, for example, could increase scrutiny on and/or seek to criminalize future protests against extractive industries and other destructive projects impacting the lands, waters and cultural rights of Indigenous Peoples. Trump’s multi-pronged orders on border security and immigration enforcement include the authorization of a U.S. – Mexico border wall and increased border patrol activity, which will further impede travel for Tribes such as the Yaqui and Tohono O’odham to their own traditional homelands, ceremonies and families. Reinstating local and state immigration enforcement partnerships could also challenge Tribal sovereignty and previous border agreements. The Tohono O’odham Nation has already stated its intention to oppose construction of the wall on its land.
Trump’s executive order that directs federal agencies to ease the “regulatory burdens” and to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “Obamacare”) that imposes a “fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications” could eliminate a portion of that law that commits federal funding for Tribal health care around the country. While the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act is a separate piece of legislation, its reauthorization in 2010 was included within the ACA bill.
It is essential that Indigenous Peoples and our allies remain vigilant as Trump and the Republicans continue to push their radical change agenda with disregard for human rights, Treaties and the environment. The IITC stands in solidarity with the resistance that has taken to the streets in this country and around the world, and commend the legal efforts such as the recent and successful ACLU challenge to the president’s Muslim ban. The world is watching as the historic mass mobilization and profound solidarity that came together at Standing Rock emanates to other struggles. Broad support will be especially critical as Indigenous Peoples’ lands, waters and sacred landscapes are increasingly threatened by imposed development and extractive industries through the policies of this administration and its backers in the U.S. Congress. International human rights oversight will be needed more than ever.
For the sake of our future generations, broad-based solidarity within, among and beyond Indigenous Peoples and Nations must be a priority as we face ongoing threats to Treaties and human rights in the Trump-era.