Gila River Indian Community, Tribal Council release letter supporting Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's efforts to protect water and sacred sites
September 1, 2016
Gila River Indian Community
SACATON, AZ. – The Gila River Indian Community and its Tribal Council have issued a letter in strong support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s efforts to protect their water resources and cultural sites, which may be harmed by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois.
The letter, approved by Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis and the 17-member Gila River Indian Community Council, draws a direct parallel between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s struggle and the challenges faced by the GRIC, who have faced serious threats to its water supply over many decades and, with the impending construction of the South Mountain Freeway, threats to land long held sacred by Community members.
The letter calls on federal agencies and the U.S. government to immediately address the issues created by the Dakota Access Pipeline to the satisfaction of the Standing Rock Sioux and
“Clearly, more meaningful consultation between the federal agencies and your tribal nation needs to occur immediately,” said the letter to Chairman Dave Archambault II. “When tribal governments are not offered a sufficient role in the first stages of a federal process that could negatively impact our natural resources and people, we are precluded from exercising the rights we have as nations.”
While much of the pipeline falls outside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation, the proposed route passes through the Tribe’s ancestral territories and very near important cultural sites. Similarly, the impending freeway is sited to pass immediately adjacent to the Gila River reservation, harming South Mountain, known to Community members as Muhadagi Doag.
“Too often people act as though tribal rights and resources end at our reservation boundaries, but activities that occur near our boundaries can still have devastating impacts,” said Gov. Lewis. “Our people still use and depend upon sacred healing places within our ancestral territories that technically may fall outside our current reservation. That does not make these sites any less important to us. These sacred places need to be respected and protected.”