Following the violent tactics used by Dakota Access’s goon squad Saturday, the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes have asked for a temporary restraining order to stop work on the controversial pipeline and to bar Dakota Access from “engaging with or antagonizing” protestors until a federal court can rule on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the pipeline company.
The Obama Administration doesn’t think the Standing Rock Sioux will win that lawsuit, but it agrees that a restraining order would be a good idea:
…the Corps is aware that Dakota Access, LLC’s work near Lake Oahe has been the subject of several recent confrontations. The Corps acknowledges that the public interest would be served by preserving peace near Lake Oahe until the Court can render its wellconsidered opinion on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The Corps therefore does not oppose this short and discrete temporary restraining order [John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources, United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Response to Plaintiff’s and Intervenor-Plaintiff’s Motions for Temporary Restraining Order, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Case No. 1-16-cv-0153-JEB, 2016.09.05].
The bulldozing Dakota Access conducted Saturday that prompted outrage may have been a deliberate effort to destroy evidence relevant to the tribe’s lawsuit. Former tribal historic preservation officer Tim Mentz, Sr., filed a sworn declaration with the court Friday describing the site as containing “one of the most significant archeological finds in North Dakota in many years.” According to that declaration, buffalo grazer Dave Meyer had expressed concern about “potential destruction of culturally important sites” and invited Mentz and his team onto his land to look for cultural artifacts. The area Mentz visited is about 1.75 miles from spot where Dakota Access is supposed to cross Lake Oahe. When he visited on August 28, the pipeline route had been staked and mowed, but no construction equipment was in sight.
We immediately observed a number of stone features in the pipeline route plainly visible from the edge of the corridor. I am very confident that this site, located within the center of the corridor, includes burials because the site contained rock cairns which are commonly used to mark burials. Two cairns were plainly visible and a possible third one existed above the cut area. I then noticed to the east twenty meters of this area a prairie dog town and multiple stone rings visible at that distance. Since prairie dogs eat all vegetation to the soil, these stone features were very visible and very distinct. (I discussed the importance of these kinds of features in my first declaration.) The stone rings were also directly in the cleared pipeline corridor [Tim Mentz, Sr., Suppelemental Declaration, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps, Case No. 1-16-cv-0153-JEB, 2016.09.02].
Over the next three days, Mentz and his team identified 82 stone features, including at least 27 burials and five sites meeting criteria for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
Again, Mentz filed this information about this site on Friday. Dakota Access bulldozed exactly this site on Saturday. In a declaration filed Sunday, Mentz alleges that Dakota Access went out of its way to disturb tribal graves and destroy the cultural artifacts before any state officials could verify Mentz’s observations:
I do not believe that the timing of this construction was an accident or coincidence. Based on my observations, the nearest area of construction in the right of way west of Highway 1806 is around 20 miles away. It appears that DAPL drove the bulldozers approximately 20 miles of uncleared right of way to access the precise area that we surveyed and described in my declaration. The work started very early in the morning and they were accompanied by private security with dogs and with a helicopter overhead, indicating that the work was planned with care and that controversy was expected.
It is generally known that DAPL’s construction crews don’t normally work on weekends. To the best of my knowledge, this work over a holiday weekend was unusual [Mentz, Declaration, Standing Rock v. Army Corps, 2016.09.04].
Mentz says there may be similar artifacts on the east side of Highway 1806 that Dakota Access has not yet bulldozed. Judge James E. Boasberg agreed to hear the restraining order motions today at 3 p.m. Eastern in Washington, D.C. If Dakota Access has destroyed evidence, Judge Boasberg should issue an immediate injunction and allow Mentz and other tribal experts to survey and recover what may be left of their ancestors.