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Northwest Tribes Celebrate Army Corps Decision On Dakota Access Pipeline

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David Goldman
/
AP Photo
Dan Nanamkin, of the Colville Nez Perce Native American tribe in Nespelem, Wash., right, drums with a procession through the Oceti Sakowin camp after the announcement that the U.S. Army Corps won't grant easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Native American tribes and environmentalists all over the U.S. have been celebrating the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers not to grant an easement for completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Several from the Pacific Northwest are viewing it as a victory, not just for the Standing Rock Sioux, but for the power of tribal treaty rights in general.

Brian Cladoosby is chairman of the Swinomish Tribe in La Conner and president of the National Congress of American Indians. He says the Army Corps of Engineers did the right thing in what he calls a historic decision.

“Fifty years ago, if these corporations wanted to put in this kind of infrastructure on current or former tribal lands, they wouldn’t have even thought of asking us if we had a concern,” Cladoosby said.    

But he says look at recent decisions from the state of Oregon, denying a permit for a coal export terminal there or the Army Corps' protection of fishing rights at Cherry Point near Bellingham. Tribal voices are being heard.

“And people are actually really seriously taking a look at our treaty rights and our ability to protect Mother Earth,” said Cladoosby. 

He says they are still concerned that the Trump administration may just go ahead and give a green light to the Dakota Access pipeline. The company building it, Energy Transfer Partners, told its investors nothing has changed. But the tribes say they’re hopeful that public awareness is shifting enough to make a difference as they continue to fight in the months ahead. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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