Video and Article Contributed by Cheslea Greene

Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva and Congressman Raul Ruiz held a forum Thursday on protecting native land and resources, urging federal agencies to pull back permits they have already issued for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-7-58-35-pmAll the way from Standing Rock, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault, tribal leaders, youth, and respected elders remarked on their efforts to protect the rights, health, safety and culture of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Lakota nations in North Dakota.

Rep. Raul Ruiz calls on the Army Corps of Engineers to comply with their legal trust responsibility to protect tribal lands and cancel their flawed Dakota Access Pipeline permit. He calls for them to conduct meaningful consultation with the tribes and that they do a complete environmental impact statement.

Harold Frazier says there’s a big issue with consultation between developers and tribes. “A lot of times when we go and meet with Federal Agencies, we come with authorities from our tribal council to negotiate, and a lot of times, there’s no decision makers sitting across the table from us. Many times, as a matter of fact all the time, they tell us they’ll get back to us but they never do,” he says.

“This conversation today impacts people who will be born generations from now.”

Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktonwan Oyate Spiritual Leader and Elder, begins her statement by saying she would like to give her thanks to the congressional relatives there. “I’d like to exert my senior status by making all her relatives be those who come from Mother Earth, so you are all my relatives here today. This conversation today impacts people who will be born generations from now. I’d like to begin by acknowledging that an entire realm of indigenous thought is marginalized, deemed unknowable and consequently left out of every serious decision. It’s important to notice that a holocaust happened here in this country. We are now experiencing it on the Missouri River, the lifeblood of our people and home to 8 million other human relatives.”

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-7-58-20-pm“This is not just a Native American Issue, this is a human race issue. We’re doing this to protect our human race because without water we can’t survive,” says Gracey Claymore. Gracey is a 19 year-old member of the Standing Rock Youth Council. She was moved to tears during her statement about how beautiful the lands of Standing Rock are and how important they are to her. “We’re doing this so they [the future generations] can have a future. They deserve clean water.”

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, reassures the tribes they’re not alone. “I wish we were having an official hearing,” he says. The representatives agree that an official bi-partisan, on the record hearing, is needed with Democrats and Republicans together. “Unfortunately we don’t have many republicans that will ask hard questions and stand up to big oil.” Congresswoman Norma Torres, agrees that there needs to be more involvement from Republicans. “Everyone here today will do everything they can to make sure we get this right,” Pallone concludes.

“The fight against Dakota Access is far from over.”

Deirdre Shelley, organizer for 350 and 350 action, joined a group of over 20 people to show up to the forum in solidarity. She says having so many people join goes a long way — it shows decision makers in DC how much momentum the fight has. But more importantly, it lets folks on the ground in North Dakota that they have the strength of a movement behind them. “The fight against Dakota Access is far from over — and I’m sure there will be key calls to action in the coming weeks. So proud to be part of this fight with all of you!”

The activism surrounding this issue has spread across the country. From a White House Petition to a legal defense fund and a GoFundMe, the internet community has gotten very involved.

Note: This article and video were submitted by Cheslea Greene. It does not necessarily reflect the views of or its staff.

Chelsea Greene holds two bachelor’s degrees in Film and Media Arts, and Psychology; and is currently getting her MA in Film and TV with a concentration of Environmental Filmmaking at American University, in Washington DC. Chelsea recently interned at Wild Earth in South Africa, where she helped direct a live interactive safari TV show called SafariLIVE which does 2×3 hour interactive live broadcasts online per day as well as air TV specials on National Geographic WILD. She also filmed and edited four original safariLIVE stories.
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