“Indian Country Today” reports on the question of the Dakota Access pipeline President Obama reportedly told NBC's Lawrence O'Donnel, “We’re monitoring this closely, and you know I think that as a general rule my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.” Obama added that his administration intended to “let it play out for several more weeks and then determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to traditions of the first Americans.” Once again the rhetoric must be decoded.


Obama uses the language “as a general rule.” The fact is, there are already rules. President Obama signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in December 2010. UNDRIP requires free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples for any infrastructure project a colonial settler state may wish to undertake in indigenous territory. The US has violated every principle of UNDRIP through Dakota Access.

Honor the Treaties

Considering the number of times the US has violated international law in the service of corporate interests or the advancement of US global hegemony, this is unsurprising, but if the US is not going to obey international law, then how about obeying US law?

Article six of the US Constitution says that “all treaties made” are to be the “supreme law of the land.” The Ft. Laramie Treaty says that all of the territory through which Dakota Access is to run is the sovereign treaty territory of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation). These are the “general rules” that cannot be changed by Obama's personal views.

Indigenous religious freedom exists without Presidential “Accommodation”

Indigenous peoples in the US are constitutionally disadvantaged. While the US Constitution purports to protect the “free exercise” of anyone's religious beliefs, throughout history indigenous spirituality has been outlawed and violently suppressed by the US government.

It was not until 1978, through decades of indigenous activism, that indigenous peoples succeeded in enacting the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The statute purports to protect the religious beliefs of indigenous peoples, but it has been significantly weakened in US federal common law through racist and religiously bigoted judicial interpretation which denies locality as spirituality.

Sacred Sites

Indigenous spirituality is location based, protection of sacred sites, and indigenous free access to those sites, is integral to the protection of the “free exercise” of indigenous spirituality. This is why the UNDRIP makes it clear that indigenous sacred sites are to be protected against the destruction of industrial development.

The sacred lands of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation) do not require Obama's “accommodation” they require he apply the existing domestic and international law and defend indigenous religious liberty.

Let it play out

Just who exactly is doing public relations for President Obama in his final days in office? If someone wrote these responses for him they are absolutely atrocious. Could he not have foreseen the backlash? The most damning statement by the President is that he would “let it play out for several more weeks.” Really? As peaceful water protectors protecting the Environment suffer Police Brutality and are, pepper sprayed, arrested, stripped naked and humiliated, thrown into jail cells naked overnight, thrown into dog kennels, shot with rubber bullets, and blasted by stun grenades; thisis what the President intends to let “play out for several more weeks?” Even more infuriating is when Obama says he wishes to resolve the matter in a way “he thinks is properly attentive.” As previously stated, Obama's personal opinion is irrelevant. There are laws that he only need apply. Will he do what is right?