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Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Representing the 4th District of Minnesota

McCollum Letter Urges Greater Army Corps Consultation with Standing Rock Sioux on Dakota Access Pipeline

September 14, 2016
Press Release

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.), the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, and 18 House Democrats wrote today to President Barack Obama to urge greater consultation between the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Standing Rock Sioux over the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“The federal government has a moral and legal trust responsibility to ensure that federally permitted projects do not threaten historically or culturally significant tribal places, the trust lands of tribal nations, or the waters that run through them. We stand with tribal leaders in asking you to uphold our federal trust responsibility and protect tribal interests in this and future permitting decisions by the United States Army Corps of Engineers,” the lawmakers wrote. “In the instance of the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite its location within a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed in its responsibility to engage in meaningful consultation and collaboration with potentially impacted tribal nations. The lack of proper consultation on the Dakota Access Pipeline has been detrimental to the interests of all stakeholders in this issue, from the tribal governments whose heritage and lands are at risk to the workers hired to construct this pipeline who now face uncertain conditions.”

The full text of the letter — which was also signed by Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Raúl M. Grijalva, Frank Pallone, Jr., Raul Ruiz, Michael M. Honda, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jared Huffman, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Derek Kilmer, Tony Cárdenas, Louise McIntosh Slaughter, Mark Pocan, Earl Blumenauer, John Conyers, Jr., Tulsi Gabbard, Donald S. Beyer, Jr., Denny Heck, and Chellie Pingree — is below:

Dear President Obama:

As Members of the Congressional Native American Caucus, we are writing to you to share our deep concerns with the lack of tribal consultation in the routing of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  In recent weeks, we have heard from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about the destructive impact that the current route of this pipeline could have upon the tribe’s sacred and cultural places, as well as the risks posed to their waters, due to the lack of proper engagement from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).   We stand with tribal leaders in asking you to uphold our federal trust responsibility and protect tribal interests in this and future permitting decisions by the USACE.

The federal government has a moral and legal trust responsibility to ensure that federally permitted projects do not threaten historically or culturally significant tribal places, the trust lands of tribal nations, or the waters that run through them.  Pursuant to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, and reinforced by the Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation of November 5, 2009, the executive departments and agencies of the federal government are to engage in “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials”.  In the instance of the DAPL, despite its location within a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the USACE failed in its responsibility to engage in meaningful consultation and collaboration with potentially impacted tribal nations.

We are encouraged by the September 9th announcement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior that the Army would be halting construction of the DAPL on Army Corps land and undertaking a review of its previous decisions about the Lake Oahe site.  The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is currently petitioning the courts to determine whether the approval process for the DAPL was fully compliant with the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and our federal trust responsibility.  We urge the Administration to maintain its hold on further permitting for the DAPL project until the concerns of the Tribe about the protection of their sacred sites, homelands, and water quality have been fully addressed.  In the meantime, we are pleased to see that the Administration will be holding formal government-to-government consultations this fall to improve tribal input on infrastructure decisions.  We look forward to working with you on legislative proposals to ensure the preservation of tribal sacred and historic sites, protection of trust lands, and access to clean water are prioritized for the DAPL and other USACE project decisions.

As Members of Congress and as fellow trustees for tribal lands with the Administration, we are deeply disappointed in this lapse in our nation-to-nation relationship.  Ultimately, the lack of proper consultation on the DAPL has been detrimental to the interests of all stakeholders in this issue, from the tribal governments whose heritage and lands are at risk to the workers hired to construct this pipeline who now face uncertain conditions.   When tribal consultation is neglected, both tribal nations and our nation as a whole suffer. 

Sincerely,