Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II called on the United Nations on Tuesday to speak out against construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline through tribal treaty territory and formally invited United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz to visit the reservation.
“I am here because oil companies are causing the deliberate destruction of our sacred places and burials,” he told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 20. “Dakota Access wants to build an oil pipeline under the river that is the source of our nation’s drinking water. This pipeline threatens our communities, the river and the earth. Our nation is working to protect our waters and our sacred places for the benefit of our children not yet born.”
Speaking at the 33rd Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which runs from September 13 through 30, Archambault outlined the ways in which the pipeline and the treatment of water protectors by the company’s employees had violated the protectors’ human rights.
“Thousands have gathered peacefully in Standing Rock in solidarity against the pipeline,” he said in a statement from the tribe afterward. “And yet many water protectors have been threatened and even injured by the pipeline’s security officers. One child was bitten and injured by a guard dog. We stand in peace but have been met with violence.”
That was on September 3, the day that Dakota Access employees bulldozed a two-mile-long, 150-foot-wide swathe in the exact spot that Standing Rock officials had said contained burial grounds and sacred items. Archambault also referred to the treaties signed in 1851 and 1868 that promised to respect the tribe’s sovereignty.
“Our lives and our rights are threatened by Energy Transfer Partners,” said Archambault, alluding to Dakota Access LLC’s parent company. “This company has shown total disregard for our rights and our sacred sites.”
He and other tribal leaders are in Geneva to meet with U.N. ambassadors over the next two days and take part in panel discussions about the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the tribe said. Archambault also briefed Tauli-Corpuz on the issues and invited her to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the construction site. There, she could speak to youth and elders “and witness for yourself the urgent situation and threats we are facing so that you are able to make informed recommendations to the United States about how to resolve this situation in a way that respects our rights as Indigenous Peoples,” Archambault said in his formal written invitation to the rapporteur.
The chairman had sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations in August in conjunction with the International Indian Treaty Council, alleging that construction was being undertaken in the absence of free, prior and informed consent—a cornerstone of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues weighed in soon afterward, chastising the U.S. for ignoring tribal nations.
“The world needs to know what is happening to the Indigenous Peoples of the United States,” said Archambault in his statement to the U.N. “This pipeline violates our treaty rights and our human rights, and it violates the U.N.’s own Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I hope the U.N. will use its influence and international platform to protect the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”