Washington D.C. September 19, 2016 – Representatives of the International Indigenous Youth Council of Standing Rock and Oceti Sakowin Youth encampment have requested that Senator John Barrasso (R- WY) hold a Senate committee hearing on Indian Affairs in response to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. As the 114th Congressional session is coming to an end, the window of opportunity is closing to give notice to other Senators, as required by procedural rule 4.a for the Indian Affairs committee. Senator Barrasso’s legislative director, Bryn Stewart, advised Youth Council representatives on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, that in order for Barrasso to schedule a hearing, he needed requests from other senators to do so. However, according to Senator Tester (D-MT), this isn’t the case and Barrasso can immediately schedule a hearing on the impact the Dakota Access Pipeline construction is having and will have on Indian Country. On Friday September 16th,, the Indigenous Youth Council confronted Senator Barrasso, and they were informed that the Senator would not be calling a hearing.

Barrasso’s legislative director, Stewart, told the Youth Council representatives that Senator Barrasso, “has other priorities than Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.” This dismissal comes at a time when nearly 300 Native tribes have rallied in support with the Standing Rock Sioux, and this issue has garnered national and international attention, including “solidarity protests” in 40 states and worldwide, and coverage by the mainstream print and tv media. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and Native and non-Native allies, have raised particular concern about desecration of historical sacred sites and burial grounds. “What if a handful of Native people with their own private “security force” armed with attack dogs and pepper spray decided to bulldoze the Arlington Cemetery – they’d probably be shot immediately,” stated Caro Gonzales, spokeswoman for the Youth Council. “Well this is what Dakota Access Pipeline has done to the burial ground of the Sioux. We are asking for grievances to be aired, an investigation commenced into Dakota Access Pipeline’s violation of the land, destruction of evidence, denial of First Amendment and Treaty rights, and for justice to be served. We deserve nothing less.”

Meanwhile, construction resumes in North Dakota, continuing to disturb and destroy sacred sites and burial grounds, which is sacrilege in Treaty terms.

The International Indigenous Youth Council and Oceti Sakowin Youth “Demands that the Senate committee on Indian Affairs, along with the with Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Senate committee on Energy and Natural Resources immediately commence hearings to investigate pipeline construction in relation to the National Historic Act of 1966 and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of November 16, 1990.” Clearly, the fact that the Department of Justice, the Department of Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia have temporarily halted construction on federal land demonstrates the need for legitimate oversight and environmental and cultural review. It is the responsibility(1.) of the Senate committee on Indian Affairs to hold a hearing on the entire pipeline construction project on both private and federal lands, evaluated as a whole, to determine if it is consistent with treaty rights, health and welfare of, and opportunities for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and other affected tribes.

1. “It shall be the duty of the select committee to conduct a study of any and all matters pertaining to problems and opportunities of Indians, including but not limited to, Indian land management and trust responsibilities, Indian education, health, special services, and loan programs, and Indian claims against the United States.” S. Res. 4, Sec. 105, 95th Congress, 1st Session (1977), as amended by S. Res. 127, 98th Congress, 2nd Session (1984), (4)(b) (2).