Seeking to quell the controversy over the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Monday that the Obama administration must do a better job consulting with tribal leaders on major energy projects.
“The president gets this,” Jewell told more than 500 trial leaders at a conference in Washington, D.C.
The furor over the pipeline 1,172-mile pipeline dominated President Barack Obama’s eighth and final White House Tribal Nations Conference.
Tribal leaders say the pipeline, which would carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois, would jeopardize sacred sites and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
They’re claiming partial victory, with the project on temporary hold after the Obama administration blocked the final federal permit required to build the pipeline.
In her opening remarks, Jewell told tribal leaders that they had shown “unprecedented solidarity” in seeking to block the project.
“Looking beyond the Dakota Access pipeline, it’s clear that there needs to be a conversation about something much larger than a single pipeline project,” she said. “How a federal action impacts your land your water, your sacred sites, your treaty rights, your sovereignty, is relevant, it’s important, and your voices are important.”
Looking beyond the Dakota Access pipeline, it’s clear that there needs to be a conversation about something much larger than a single pipeline project.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
To hear more from tribes, Department of Interior officials said they would host “listening sessions” at six locations across the country, beginning in Phoenix on Oct. 11. A second session is scheduled for Seattle on Oct. 25, followed by meetings in New Mexico, Montana, Minnesota and South Dakota.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said the Obama administration had taken “a major step forward” by deciding to do more consultation with tribes.
“We will continue to advocate for the protection of our water, lands and sacred places, and the necessary respect as Indigenous Peoples,” he said.
In a brief address to tribal leaders Monday afternoon, the president made no mention of the pipeline project.
Before he gave his speech, Obama received a red and black blanket, a gift from the tribes presented by Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Tribe in Washington state and president of the National Congress of American Indians.
Cladoosby recalled how Obama had received an Indian name that meant “one who helps the land” when he was formally adopted by a Crow Tribe family in 2008 during a visit to the Crow Indian Reservation. He joined the family of Hartford and Mary Black Eagle, receiving the adopted name of Barack Black Eagle.
“You are a part of us, we are a part of you, and we look forward to continuing our journey together as relatives in the work to uplift and help people throughout our lands,” Cladoosby told Obama.
Obama called the presentation “very moving” and said he had worked hard as president to help all Indian tribes.
I may be an adopted son of the Crow Nation, but I try not to play favorites.
President Barack Obama
“I may be an adopted son of the Crow Nation, but I try not to play favorites,” Obama said.