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By Stephanie Keith
(Reuters)

Native American tribes that tried to block the Dakota Access oil pipeline during a months-long standoff with authorities in North Dakota more than a year ago are carrying on their fight in federal court, in what they contend is a symbol of their ongoing struggle for tribal sovereignty

“People think Standing Rock has come and gone,” said Danielle Ta’Sheena Finn, a spokeswoman for the Standing Rock Sioux, referring to the sight of the protests. “But we will continue this fight until we are heard and the world knows what happened to us.”

 

Jessie James White, one of the Fort Laramie treaty riders, sets out in the morning from the Rockyford School towards the Badlands National Park in the Pine Ridge Reservation in Rockyford, South Dakota
Jessie James White, one of the Fort Laramie treaty riders, sets out in the morning from the Rockyford School towards the Badlands National Park in the Pine Ridge Reservation in Rockyford, South Dakota, U.S., April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

The pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP), has been operational since June 2017, after President Donald Trump granted its permit over the objections of tribes and environmentalists fearful that it would pollute a waterway sacred to the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux.

The pipeline approval, part of Trump’s desire to increase domestic energy production, distressed Native people in the United States and Canada who were concerned that it discounted indigenous rights.

 

The Fort Laramie treaty riders cross the Nebraska and Wyoming border in Van Tassel, Wyoming
The Fort Laramie treaty riders cross the Nebraska and Wyoming border in Van Tassel, Wyoming, U.S., April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

The Standing Rock and Cheyenne Sioux sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soon after Trump ordered it to approve the pipeline, arguing that the tribes had not been properly consulted.

The Army Corps of Engineers is involved with U.S. military construction projects around the world and also advises civil engineering activities, such as dredging America’s waterways and cleaning up hazardous or toxic sites.

 

The Fort Laramie treaty riders ride out of Fort Robinson State Park near Harrison, Nebraska
The Fort Laramie treaty riders ride out of Fort Robinson State Park near Harrison, Nebraska, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., is weighing whether the Corps adequately considered effects on the tribes before approving the pipeline. He is expected to rule by Aug. 10.

The Army Corps did not respond to a request for comment, but it has previously said that it worked diligently to meet obligations to tribes.

 

 

The tribes have expressed hope that Boasberg will suspend operations on the pipeline. They have said that they are prepared to appeal if he does not.

ETP declined to comment, but it has repeatedly said the pipeline would be safely operated.

 

A group of young people either part of the Lookinghorse family or affiliated with it sit on the porch of Arvol Lookinghorse's house on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
A group of young people either part of the Lookinghorse family or affiliated with it sit on the porch of Arvol Lookinghorse’s house on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

The 1,172-mile (1,886-km) pipeline was built to move crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to a refining and transport hub in Patoka, Illinois.

“We know we are going to fight this to the very end,” said Standing Rock’s Finn.

 

LARAMIE AND A TREATY

Opposition to the pipeline played a central role in last spring’s gathering of tribes at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to mark the 150th anniversary of a peace treaty between the Sioux Nation and the United States.

 

Angel Lookinghorse stops her car next to her brother, Jayden Lookinghorse riding his horse, on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
Angel Lookinghorse stops her car next to her brother, Jayden Lookinghorse riding his horse, on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

Under the treaty, the federal government recognised the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory as part of the Great Sioux Reservation and hostilities ended between the Sioux and white settlers.

The Sioux contend the pipeline was built on land they never agreed to give up.

 

The Fort Laramie treaty riders pass by a sign post displaying the name of a ranch in Torrington, Wyoming
The Fort Laramie treaty riders pass by a sign post displaying the name of a ranch in Torrington, Wyoming, U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

In 1868, their land included most of South Dakota and parts of Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. It has shrunken to several smaller reservations in the region.

The April meeting in Laramie was the first time since the Standing Rock protests of 2016 and 2017 that all seven bands of the Great Sioux Nation were together. Many veterans of the Standing Rock protests were there.

 

Jayden Lookinghorse rides his horse while Mahto In The Woods stands on the porch of Beatrice Lookinghorse's trailer on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
Jayden Lookinghorse rides his horse while Mahto In The Woods stands on the porch of Beatrice Lookinghorse’s trailer on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

Members of the tribes rode hundreds of miles on horseback to get to Laramie, passing through tiny communities like Green Grass, South Dakota, the spiritual centre of the Lakota People on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation.

Tribal leaders expressed disappointment that no senior members of the Trump administration were at Fort Laramie to commemorate the milestone for Indian country.

 

Jayden Lookinghorse wins an informal horse race against his cousins and friends in the driveway of Arvol Lookinghorse's home on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
Jayden Lookinghorse wins an informal horse race against his cousins and friends in the driveway of Arvol Lookinghorse’s home on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux, said the convocation was a reminder for Native Americans that the federal government had fallen short of its agreements under the Laramie Treaty including by approving the Dakota Access pipeline.

“They (the United States government) ought to be ashamed of themselves,” Frazier said. “They have a moral obligation to uphold the honour of the Great Sioux Nation.”

 

The Fort Laramie treaty riders get started the morning in Jay Em, Wyoming
The Fort Laramie treaty riders get started in the morning in Jay Em, Wyoming, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

Ivan Lookinghorse, a medicine man from the Cheyenne River Reservation and an organizer of the ride to Laramie, said the tribes intended to use the momentum from that gathering to stay unified as they gear up to fight other projects that they maintain threaten their wellbeing.

“We are going to keep it going, keep organising meetings and find a way to be able to take care of the health and welfare of our people, and preserve land and water,” he said.

 

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Keith in Green Grass, South Dakota; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Frances Kerry, Jonathan Oatis, Toni Reinhold)

 

Members of the extended Lookinghorse family on three horses and in a car gather on a hilltop at dusk on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
Members of the extended Lookinghorse family on three horses and in a car gather on a hilltop at dusk on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

Cody Lookinghorse plays in the backyard of Beatrice Lookinghorse's home on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
Cody Lookinghorse plays in the backyard of Beatrice Lookinghorse’s home on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

The Fort Laramie treaty riders ride along Van Tassel Road in Torrington, Wyoming
The Fort Laramie treaty riders ride along Van Tassel Road in Torrington, Wyoming, U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

Mahto In The Woods throws a work glove in the air on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
Mahto In The Woods throws a work glove in the air on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

One of Beatrice Lookinghorse's grand daughters has a splinter removed from her foot at her home on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
One of Beatrice Lookinghorse’s grand daughters has a splinter removed from her foot at her home on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

 

Angel Lookinghorse walks her younger cousin on top of her car while other family members sit and stand near the car on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota
Angel Lookinghorse walks her younger cousin on top of her car while other family members sit and stand near the car on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Green Grass, South Dakota, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith