#NoDAPL movement takes center stage at summit in North Dakota

Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe speaks at the United Tribes Technical College's 20th annual Tribal Leaders Summit in Bismarck, North Dakota, on September 6, 2016. Photo courtesy United Tribes News

The United Tribes Technical College is hosting the 20th annual Tribal Leaders Summit in Bismarck, North Dakota.

The event kicked off on Tuesday with a slew of speeches from key tribal leaders. Included was Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who shared his people's struggle against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline.

Archambault explained how the tribe sought "meaningful consultation" when it first learned about the project about two years ago. But he said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to listen to the tribe's concerns.

"There was no indication that Standing Rock even existed, yet the pipeline was coming 500 feet from our boundary," Archambault said at the gathering. "If anything was to happen, we said it's going to impact us first."

"So we should have a say in it," Archambault added. "We should be the ones that are determining whether or not this project is viable."

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: 20th Annual Tribal Leaders Summit September 6 2016 [Audio courtesy United Tribes Technical College]

Based on the lack of consultation, the tribe filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps in federal court in Washington, D.C. A major decision is expected by Friday that could determine whether the 1,172-mile pipeline moves forward.

Beyond the legal front, Archambault credited Native youth with helping bring the #NoDAPL message to the mainstream. The ReZpect Our Water group [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] held a series of relay runs -- including a 2,000-mile journey to D.C. -- this summer to raise awareness about the pipeline.

"It was the youth who really took the leadership in this," Archambault noted. "They were the ones that had a strong voice, a powerful voice."

"When the kids came back from D.C., that's when everything started rolling," he said.

Due to the youth's work, within those first few weeks of August, the #NoDAPL encampment near Cannon Ball grew to the thousands that are still seen today. Their activism -- which included a major social media campaign that has attracted celebrity interest -- also was largely responsible for the huge turnout at a rally in D.C. on August 24.

In addition to Archambault, two young Standing Rock citizens -- Alice Brown Otter, 12, who participated in the ReZpect Our Water runs, and Gracey Claymore -- shared their experiences with the movement. So did Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network and a key #NoDAPL figure, and Ricardo Cate', the cartoonist behind Without Reservations who left his home in New Mexico last month to join the encampment.

About 225 people were in attendance at the SRST report on the pipeline actions and Protectors/Spirit camps, led by...

Posted by United Tribes Technical College on Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"After we defeat the Dakota Access Pipeline -- because I know that we will -- my biggest prayer ... is that the youth and the people that are here at the camp are going to take all this positive energy and all the prayer and all the experiences that we've shared here, we are going to take that back into our communities and we are going to begin to heal again," Claymore, 19, said at the summit.

Thanks to United Tribes Technical College and United Tribes News, audio from the main ceremony on Tuesday can be found on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud. A bonus comes in the form of emcee Tony Bobtail Bear Sr., a Standing Rock Sioux citizen who provided similar duties when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama came to the reservation in June 2014.

Claymore, incidentally, was among a group of young tribal members who met with the Obamas during their historic visit and the president has repeatedly cited the youth from the reservation as an inspiration. But she said the administration's response, or lack thereof, to the #NoDAPL movement was disappointing.

"I'm truly disappointed in him because he didn't keep his promises to us," Claymore said of the president. "He promised the youth that he would stand with us. He cried with us and he told us how important we were to him. He told us he would stand behind Indian Country no matter what it took."

"And like Alice said, Where is he now?" Claymore said.

The summit runs through Thursday. It will be followed by the 40th annual International Powwow, which runs from Friday through Sunday. The two events are expected to attract an estimated 20,000 people to Bismarck.

Relevant Documents:
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order | Declaration of Tim Mentz, Sr. | Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order | U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Response | Dakota Access Response

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