Trump Supreme Court pick would slash odds of surprise liberal victories

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amid a flurry of major rulings early this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court in an under-the-radar case handed a significant win to Native Americans by finding for the first time that almost half of Oklahoma is tribal land.

The ruling was a 5-4 decision in which conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the four liberal justices, one of a handful of such surprise victories by the liberal wing of the court in recent terms.

The death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her possible replacement by a conservative appointed by President Donald Trump imperil such unlikely liberal wins in coming years.

The 5-4 conservative majority before Ginsburg’s death meant that the liberals on certain key issues only needed one conservative colleague siding with them.

Now, if Trump replaces her, they would need two, with likely implications for headline-grabbing issues on which liberals have prevailed in recent years, including abortion and gay rights, as well as lesser-known cases.

“The stars would have to line up,” said John Elwood, a Supreme Court lawyer.

The last two Supreme Court terms have defied expectations with a series of 5-4 rulings in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberals in ruling against Trump’s bid to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census, blocking the president’s effort to rescind protections for young immigrants known as “Dreamers” and striking down a Louisiana abortion restriction.

But there are also several lesser-noticed 5-4 rulings that would have been unlikely with a 6-3 conservative majority.

The Oklahoma ruling was one. It is one of three 5-4 cases on Native American issues in which Gorsuch, who was appointed by Trump, joined the four liberals in the majority.

Similarly, Gorsuch two years ago was the fifth vote for the liberal wing of the court in striking down part of an immigration law that made it easier to deport people convicted of certain criminal offenses. He also cast the deciding vote that year in two 5-4 criminal cases in favor of defendants.

Last year, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another conservative appointed by Trump, joined the four liberals in a 5-4 ruling that gave the greenlight to an antitrust lawsuit accusing Apple Inc of forcing consumers to overpay for iPhone software applications.

In an important case on evolving privacy rights in the age of the smartphone, Roberts and the four liberals prevailed in another 5-4 case in 2018 as the court imposed limits on the ability of police to obtain cellphone data pinpointing the past location of criminal suspects.

Whether the three liberals will be able to cobble together a majority in similar cases in future depends in large part on the identity of Trump’s nominee.


Trump has said he intends to announce his nomination on Saturday, with conservative appeals court judges Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa considered the frontrunners to be named to succeed Ginsburg, who died last Friday at age 87. The Republican-controlled Senate, which has to vote on whether to approve or reject the nomination, is poised to act even ahead of Nov. 3, when Trump is seeking re-election.

Carolyn Shapiro, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said that even before Ginsburg’s death, the 5-4 cases in which liberals prevailed were contingent on the individual legal reasoning of the conservative who joined them. It might be possible to win certain cases with a 6-3 majority, she added, but it will be harder.

“Those occasions are likely to be fairly idiosyncratic and mostly unpredictable,” Shapiro said.

One area where liberal votes may still be key is on LGBT rights. In June, the court to the dismay of conservatives ruled 6-3 that federal law that outlaws sex discrimination in the workplace applies to gay, lesbian and transgender people.

In that case, both Roberts and Gorsuch were in the majority with the liberals, so even with Ginsburg’s absence, five of the votes in favor of LGBT workers remain on the court. Other cases on the definition of sex discrimination under other federal laws are likely to reach the court soon.

Shannon Minter, a lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said he is “hopeful” that the majority remains intact but noted that every time there is a change in personnel on the court it can change the internal dynamic in unpredictable ways.

As such, he added, “Ginsburg’s absence is a significant factor.”

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Mary Milliken and Alistair Bell)

There to save, not to kill: U.S. survivor recalls D-Day bloodshed

Charles Norman Shay, 94, a Penobscot Native American Indian WWII veteran, poses as he attends an interview with Reuters in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, near Omaha Beach, France, May 18, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

By Hortense de Roffignac

OMAHA BEACH, France (Reuters) – Seventy-five years ago, 19-year-old Charles Shay leapt off a U.S. landing boat and into chest-deep water just off the Normandy coast. As he came ashore in the first wave of D-Day infantrymen, he had just one objective.

“I wanted to survive, and that was the thought going through many minds: survival,” Shay said.

On June 6, 1944, he was in France not to kill but to rescue. As a medical technician, he was to treat the wounded as the world’s largest ever seaborne invasion unfolded.

One of 175 Native Americans who landed in Normandy that day, he ran across the beach dozens of times, dragging men out of the surf and patching up their wounds under heavy fire — actions for which he was awarded a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, and France’s Legion d’Honneur.

All around him, Shay faced the earsplitting chaos of rattling machine guns, exploding mortars, disfigured bodies and far too many wounded to treat. Of the 160,000 troops who landed during D-Day, more than 10,000 were wounded or killed.

“I had to sit and think, I had to push all of this out of my mind,” Shay, who celebrates his 95th birthday next month, told Reuters. “I did not think about it anymore, and then I was able to operate and do the things that I was trained to do: treat the wounded and try to save lives.”

He grew up in the Indian Penobscot Nation in the U.S. northeast but now, drawn back to the place where he took part in history, he lives in Normandy.

As the invasion’s 75th anniversary approaches, the telling contribution made by Native Americans – many of them Comanche code talkers tasked with sending radio messages in their language’s impenetrable code – is only starting to be fully appreciated.

That is in large part down to Shay.

Charles Norman Shay, 94, a Penobscot Native American Indian WWII veteran, poses holding an eagle feather as he attends an interview with Reuters in Bretteville l’Orgueilleuse, France, May 18, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

“After the war, long after, I wanted to speak for Native American veterans,” he said, standing on a bluff near the town of Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach. In his hand, he holds a feather of a beaded eagle and his chest is adorned with his unit’s insignia, a host of medals and a traditional Native collar.

Last year, his efforts bore fruit when a memorial was erected to the Native Americans who fought on Omaha Beach. In Native folklore, they are known as the boys from Turtle Island, so it features a large granite turtle.

Although he works to honor their sacrifice, Shay – a veteran of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, 16th Infantry Regiment, Fox Company – emphasizes that remembrance encompasses all who serve.

“It’s not only Native Americans it’s all soldiers, from every nation, that participated in the invasion of Europe. We do not want to forget them.”

When Shay was a boy Native Americans faced systematic discrimination, having not been granted U.S. citizenship rights until the month of his birth. But his mother successfully fought to get him an education at a better, all-white school, going so far as to write to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Shay and his three brothers all served their country in World War Two, and they all survived. Asked how he views the end of his days, he is unflinching.

“Am I afraid of death? No, no.”

(Writing by Rachel Joyner; Editing by Luke Baker and John Stonestreet)

‘We know how to survive,’ but U.S. shutdown cut deep for Native Americans

Lynn Provost stands in front of her trailer on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, U.S. January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

By Stephanie Keith and Andrew Hay

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D./TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma used a GoFundMe page and its own money to feed its many members who were furloughed or worked without pay during the U.S. government shutdown.

On their reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Sioux used third-party funds and dipped into tribal funds to provide food assistance.

The 35-day partial government shutdown affected 800,000 federal workers, but Native Americans were especially vulnerable because they rely mostly on federal contracts for services and jobs in the Bureau of Indian affairs for incomes.

Ivan Looking Horse, a spiritual leader at the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, said they had prepared for an even longer shutdown in the midst of a harsh South Dakota winter along the Cheyenne River.

A worker places packaged food onto a counter inside of a food distribution center on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, U.S. January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

A worker places packaged food onto a counter inside of a food distribution center on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, U.S. January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

“We are the First Nations’ people. We know how to survive,” he said after President Donald Trump announced an end to the 35-day partial government shutdown.

Federal workers caught a reprieve after Trump agreed to reopen the government until Feb. 15, without getting the $5.7 billion he had demanded for a border wall. Over the next 18 days lawmakers in the ideologically divided Congress will try to craft a border security bill acceptable to Trump.

For American Indian tribes and federal workers, that amounts to a period in limbo while they wait to see if a deal will be reached by the Feb. 15 deadline – or if another government shutdown will again take their paychecks hostage.

Looking Horse was cautiously optimistic. “I think they’ll come to a conclusion,” he said. “This country is based on democracy and consensus and good things will come out.”


Native Americans elsewhere were not so sure.

A Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) worker in the Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, said the agency would work fast to obtain federal grants for contracts to run basic services like road maintenance and land management.

Tracy Lawrence (R), 51, a furloughed Bureau of Indian Affairs worker, holds his grandson while attending a high school basketball game on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, U.S. January 26, 2019. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Tracy Lawrence (R), 51, a furloughed Bureau of Indian Affairs worker, holds his grandson while attending a high school basketball game on the Cheyenne River Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, U.S. January 26, 2019. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

“Everyone is going to be working like mad for the next 2-1/2 weeks in case he shuts it down again,” said the employee, who did not want to be identified.

BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling said in an email, “Indian Affairs is excited to resume our work towards fulfilling our trust responsibility and treaty obligations for the 573 federally recognized tribes.”

While stress from the shutdown – including missed home and car payments, food handouts and burning through savings – affected all federal workers and contractors, it cut much deeper for American Indians.

Generations ago, tribes negotiated hundreds of treaties with the U.S. government guaranteeing funds for things like education, public safety, basic infrastructure and health in exchange for vast amounts of their land.

The services are administered directly by federal agencies or through the tribes and contractors by means of grants.

With BIA offices closed by the shutdown, families receiving federal royalty payments for oil and gas drilling and grazing on former tribal lands did not receive checks that can be their main source of income.

About 9,000 Indian Health Service employees, delivering health care to about 2.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives, worked without pay, according to the Health and Human Services Department’s shutdown plan.

“When our funding gets cuts, all these people are getting put on hold for the healthcare they need,” said Terri Parton, president of the Anadarko, Oklahoma-based Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.

Like the Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota, the Wichita dipped into tribal funds to prop up social services.


After enduring government shutdowns in the 1990s, the Cherokee Nation changed its operating model from the government’s running many of its facilities to administering services themselves with federal money, said Chuck Hoskin, secretary of state for the Cherokee Nation.

The latest stoppage, the 10th with furloughs since 1976, has further eroded Native American confidence in the federal government, tribal leaders say.

At the Pawnee Nation in Oklahoma, the GoFundMe drive was launched to provide baskets of groceries to federal workers, even those who were not tribe members, struggling to put food on the table, said Jim Gray, executive director of the nation. In 16 days – the drive is no longer accepting donations – it raised $6,343, out of a goal of $10,000.

“We had to give up 99 percent of our land to hang onto this 1 percent and then, in turn, they were supposed to provide these kinds of services as part of that treaty agreement,” Gray said.


(Reporting by Stephanie Keith in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; additional reporting by Lenzy Kreihbul-Burton in Pawnee, Oklahoma; editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)

Indigenous Peoples Day replaces Columbus Day in Los Angeles

(Reuters) – Indigenous Peoples Day will be celebrated in Los Angeles instead of the traditional Columbus Day after city leaders in the second largest U.S. city decided to recognize Native Americans instead of the Italian explorer.

Los Angeles joined several U.S. cities and states, including Minneapolis, Seattle, Alaska, Hawaii and Oregon that have replaced Columbus Day, a federal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in October to commemorate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas in 1492.

The Los Angeles city council voted 14-1 on Wednesday to make the change to commemorate indigenous, aboriginal and native people.

“The historical record is unambiguous and today is a moment where we took a step that is righteous, that is just, that is heeling and that is historically clear,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said after the vote.

Support for Indigenous Peoples Day has steadily risen in recent years, paralleling the growing perception that the wave of European settlement in the Western Hemisphere was genocidal to native populations.

The vote came after a contentious debate unfolded between Italian Americans and Native Americans over Christopher Columbus’ place in history versus that of Native Americans who were slain or driven from their land.

“Why don’t you stop picking on Christopher Columbus as though you’re picking on our people,” Beverly Hills resident John Giovanni Corda told a crowd of supporters and opponents of the measure during the meeting, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We never hurt you. We never wanted to hurt you.”

The federal government and about half of U.S. states give public employees paid leave on Columbus Day, according to the Council of State Governments. Schools and government offices are generally closed, but many private businesses remain open.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

U.S. judge denies tribe’s request to stop oil flow in Dakota Access pipeline

Members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and others sing as they prepare to evacuate the main opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by a Native American tribe for an emergency injunction to prevent oil from flowing through part of the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying such a move would be against the public interest.

The ruling, issued in court documents ahead of plans to start pumping oil through the pipeline next week, follows months of demonstrations in a remote part of North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe demonstrated in an attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing upstream from their reservation.

Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued his decision denying the request by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, saying the court “acknowledges that the tribe is likely to suffer irreparable harm to its members’ religious exercise if oil is introduced into the pipeline, but Dakota Access would also be substantially harmed by an injunction, given the financial and logistical injuries that would ensue.”

The pipeline is nearing completion after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month smoothing the path for construction. He also cleared the way for the Keystone XL project that would pipe Canadian crude into the United States.

The Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux last week lost a legal bid to halt construction of the last link of the pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, which they say threatens tribal lands. The pipeline will be ready to carry oil by April 1.

Among the Republican Trump’s first acts in office was to sign an executive order that reversed a decision by the previous administration of Democratic President Barack Obama to delay approval of the Dakota pipeline, a $3.8 billion project by Energy Transfer Partners LP <ETP.N>.

Boasberg noted in his decision that any ruling to allow the tribe’s request for an injunction preventing oil from flowing through the pipeline would likely be overturned on appeal.

Thousands of Native American demonstrators and their supporters marched to the White House last Friday to voice outrage at Trump’s decision.

(Reporting by David Gaffen; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by G Crosse and Peter Cooney)

Dakota protesters regroup, plot resistance to other pipelines

A man warms up by a fire in Sacred Stone camp, one of the few remaining camps protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang

By Terray Sylvester

CANNON BALL, N.D. (Reuters) – Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline who were pushed out of their protest camp this week have vowed to keep up efforts to stop the multibillion-dollar project and take the fight to other pipelines as well.

The Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, was cleared by law enforcement on Thursday and almost 50 people, many of them Native Americans and environmental activists, were arrested.

The number of demonstrators had dwindled from the thousands who poured into the camp starting in August to oppose the pipeline that critics say threatens the water resources and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe has said it intends to fight the pipeline in court.

The 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line, built by Energy Transfer Partners LP, will move crude from the shale oilfields of North Dakota to Illinois en route to the Gulf of Mexico, where many U.S. refineries are located.

Tonya Olsen, 46, an Ihanktonwan Sioux from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who had lived at the camp for 3-1/2 months, said she was saddened by the eviction but proud of the protesters.

She has moved to another nearby camp on Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation land, across the Cannon Ball River.

“A lot of people will take what they’ve learned from this movement and take it to another one,” Olsen said. She may join a protest if one forms against the Keystone XL pipeline near the Lower Brulé Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, she added.

Tom Goldtooth, a protest leader and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the demonstrators’ hearts were not defeated.

“The closing of the camp is not the end of a movement or fight, it is a new beginning,” Goldtooth said in a statement on Thursday. “They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started.”

Many hope their fight against the project will spur similar protests targeting pipelines across the United States and Canada, particularly those routed near Native American land.

“The embers are going to be carried all over the place,” said Forest Borie, 34, a protester from Tijuana, Mexico, who spent four months in North Dakota.

“This is going to be a revolutionary year,” he added.


Borie wants to go next to Canada to help the Unist’ot’en Native American Tribe in their long-running opposition to pipelines in British Columbia.

Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based company constructing the Dakota Access pipeline, is already facing pushback from a diverse base of opposition in Louisiana, where it is planning to expand its Bayou Bridge pipeline.

Other projects mentioned by protesters as possible next stops include the Sabal Trail pipeline being built to transport natural gas from eastern Alabama to central Florida, and Energy Transfer Partners’ Trans-Pecos in West Texas. Sabal Trail is a joint project of Spectra Energy Corp, NextEra Energy Inc and Duke Energy Corp.

Another protest is focused on Plains All American Pipeline’s Diamond Pipeline, which will run from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Valero Energy Corp’s Memphis refinery in Tennessee.

Anthony Gazotti, 47, from Denver, said he will stay on reservation land until he is forced out. Despite construction resuming on the Dakota pipeline, he said the protest was a success because it had raised awareness of pipeline issues nationwide.

“It’s never been about just stopping that pipeline,” he said.

June Sapiel, a 47-year-old member of the Penobscot Tribe in Penobscot, Maine, also rejected the idea that the protesters in North Dakota had failed.

“It’s waking people up,” she said in front of a friend’s yurt where she has been staying. “We’re going to go out there and just keep doing it.”

(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and Liz Hampton in Houston; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

With Dakota denial, outlook for U.S. pipelines turns murky

People celebrate the temporary win of the North Dakota Pipeline

By Liz Hampton

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Army’s denial of an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline, after permitting and legal obligations were followed, sets an uncertain precedent for new projects despite President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to support energy infrastructure.

The decision came after months of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others who said the line could desecrate tribal grounds, or a spill could contaminate drinking water.

While most of the 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline is complete, Energy Transfer Partners, the line’s owner, needed an easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to drill under Lake Oahe. The lake, a water source formed by a dam on the Missouri River, has been the focus of protesters.

The Army’s intervention sets an unsettling precedent, analysts and industry groups told Reuters, because Energy Transfer had undergone the necessary environmental reviews and permitting processes to move ahead with construction.

“I think it sends a horrible signal to anyone wanting to invest in a project and I strongly suspect those policies will be discontinued on Jan. 20th,” said Brigham McCown, the former head of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) under George W. Bush, referring to the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Still, the decision to deny the easement tempers some of the optimism pipeline companies assumed following the election of Trump, who is seen as more supportive of oil and gas projects.

Energy Transfer Partners said in a statement the decision was politically motivated and it did not intend to reroute the line.

(For graphic on the Dakota Access Pipeline, click


Beyond the federal approval issues, state and local governments have also mobilized against pipelines. Earlier this year, Georgia’s state legislature passed a bill to restrict pipeline developments, stopping a gasoline line from Florida to South Carolina from being built.

Energy Transfer chief executive Kelcy Warren, a donor to Trump’s campaign, said his election was a positive. Last week Trump for the first time voiced support for the Dakota Access project.

Trump has also said he would support TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL, which the Obama Administration rejected last year.

Denying permits for an already-approved pipeline adds a new level of uncertainty to projects. Oil companies have already been facing growing resistance from environmental groups that have resulted in delays or unanticipated costs.

Equipment used for the Dakota Access line has been set on fire, and in October, a group of protesters turned off valves on pipelines transporting oil from Canada to the United States. Together, those lines had capacity to move some 2.8 million barrels per day of oil.

“Until you see that Trump has a track record of approving things and showing that things can get built in time, it’s tough to say it’s not a murky environment for pipelines,” said Sarp Ozkan, manager of energy analytics for Drillinginfo.

That means pipelines could face higher risk premiums and have a harder time getting volume commitments from shippers that underpin such projects, Ozkan said.

Energy Transfer has said it expects to lose almost $84 million each month the Dakota Access pipeline is delayed, and that losing shippers could result in its cancellation, according to a court filing.

“I think midstream companies will hope that each project can be decided based on necessary permitting approvals, but there will be increased risk where agencies like USACE are involved,” said Sandy Fielden, director of research in commodities and energy at Morningstar.

While the Standing Rock Sioux have said they would support a rerouting of the line, others, such as the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), want it canceled.

“Given Trump’s support of the Dakota Access, and the Keystone XL, we remain cautious,” said Dallas Goldtooth, a spokesman for IEN.

(Reporting by Liz Hampton in Houston; Editing by Tom Hogue)

North Dakota governor orders pipeline protesters expelled

Women hold a prayer ceremony on Backwater Bridge during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota,

By Terray Sylvester

CANNON BALL, N.D. (Reuters) – North Dakota’s governor ordered the expulsion of thousands of Native American and environmental activists camped on federal property near an oil pipeline project they are trying to halt, citing hazards posed by harsh weather as a blizzard bore down on the area.

The “emergency evacuation” order from Governor Jack Dalrymple came days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the site, set a Dec. 5 deadline for the demonstrators to vacate their encampment, about 45 miles (72 km) south of Bismarck, the state capital.

The Army Corps has insisted, however, that it has no plans to forcibly remove protesters, many of them members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The agency instead urged a “peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location.”

Late Monday, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II denounced Dalrymple’s order as a “menacing action meant to cause fear,” and accused the Republican governor of trying to “usurp and circumvent federal authority.”

Archambault noted that the evacuation order, which the governor said he issued for the campers’ well-being in the face of dangerous winter weather, came a week after police turned water hoses on protesters in sub-freezing temperatures.

Activists have spent months protesting against plans to route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying the project poses a threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.

The governor did not specify how he intended to enforce his order other than by directing state and local agencies to refuse emergency assistance and other services to anyone who remained at the site. He said the order was effective immediately and would stay in force “until rescinded.”

But Standing Rock Sioux spokeswoman Phyllis Young told a news conference Monday night the tribe would stand its ground.

“We have lived for generations in this setting. That is our camp. We will continue to provide for our people there,” she said. “This is Lakota territory. This is treaty territory, and no one else has jurisdiction there.”

Protest leaders suggested a forced evacuation could prove more dangerous to the activists than staying put.

“We’re in the heart of winter now. To even think of a forced removal is terrifying,” said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network, who estimated there were about 5,000 people in the camp.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier added to the pressure by issuing a video statement urging protesters to avoid subjecting themselves to “life-threatening conditions” by remaining exposed to the elements with little shelter.

The National Weather Service has posted a storm warning for most of western and central North Dakota, forecasting the possibility of heavy snow through Wednesday.

The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline project is mostly complete except for a segment that is supposed to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

The Obama administration in September postponed final approval of an Army Corps permit required to allow tunneling beneath the lake, a move intended to give federal officials more time to consult tribal leaders. The delay also led to escalating tension over the project.

The companies say the pipeline would carry Bakken shale oil more cheaply and safely from North Dakota to Illinois en route to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries than it could be shipped by railroad or tanker trucks.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Leslie Adler, Robert Birsel)

As Dakota pipeline saga drags on, rancor builds

Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

By Terray Sylvester

CANNON BALL, N.D. (Reuters) – The September decision by the Obama administration to delay final approval for the Dakota Access Pipeline was intended to give federal officials more time to consult with Native American tribes that have faced dispossession from lands for decades.

But the delays have also caused increased consternation among company officials and led to growing violence between law enforcement and protesters, with both sides decrying the actions of the other in recent days.

Energy Transfer Partners LP’s <ETP.N> $3.7 billion Dakota Access project has drawn steady opposition from environmentalists and Native American activists, led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Their tribal lands are adjacent to the Missouri River, where federal approval is needed to tunnel under a 1-mile (1.6 km) stretch to complete the pipeline.

The activist movement has grown steadily since the tribe established Sacred Stone Camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in April, a temporary site founded as a point of resistance to the pipeline. The movement has remained strong even as temperatures have turned frigid.

The most violent clashes took place over this past weekend. Police used water hoses in below-freezing temperatures to keep about 400 protesters at bay, a move criticized by activist groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and elected officials concerned about freedom of expression and the escalation of violence.

“Almost the entire camp was in shock,” Salim Matt Gras, 64, of Hamilton, Montana, said at the main camp. “They talk about using non-lethal weapons, but when you’re talking about soaking people with freezing water in frigid temperatures, that’s life-threatening.”

Morton County has said violent protesters have overshadowed the peaceful action by other activists. Police said they had recovered improvised weapons from the scene of the protest including slingshots and small propane tanks rigged as explosives.

“We can use whatever force necessary to maintain peace,” said Jason Ziegler, police chief in Mandan, North Dakota, near Cannon Ball, in a statement Monday. He said the use of water is “less than lethal” compared with protesters’ use of slingshots and burning logs.

Both protesters and law enforcement have released statements this week detailing injuries suffered by police and activists, with each side accusing the other of ratcheting up tensions.

Sophia Wilansky, 21, of New York City, was struck on her left arm by a crowd-control grenade fired by police on Monday, according to a statement from Standing Rock’s Medic and Healer Council. A spokeswoman for Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where Wilansky was taken, confirmed she was in serious condition.

North Dakota officials said the explosion that injured the woman was still under investigation, but injuries to her arm were not the result of any tools or weapons used by law enforcement. They cited the recovery of three propane canisters at the site of the explosion.

Standing Rock officials disputed that claim, saying grenade fragments were removed from her arm.


There is still no official timeline for approval of the project. The pipeline, set to run 1,172 miles (1,885 km) from North Dakota to Illinois, was delayed in September so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could re-examine permits that would allow construction under the river.

On Nov. 14, final approval was delayed again for additional consultation. That set off executives from Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which asked a U.S. district court to declare the project had the legal right to move forward and needed no further approvals. It said the delays were part of a “sham process.”

While President Barack Obama has said the pipeline could be re-routed, ETP chief executive Kelcy Warren has rejected that possibility, adding he is confident the pipeline will be approved once President-elect Donald Trump, who has been supportive of pipeline projects, takes office in late January.

Two weeks ago, on Election Day, ETP said it was moving equipment to the edge of the Missouri River, and would “commence drilling activities” within two weeks of the move’s completion. That, too, was seen as a provocation by protesters.

The delays have alarmed elected officials in North Dakota. Governor Jack Dalrymple has urged federal officials to resolve the permitting process and asked for additional support from federal law enforcement. A spokesman for the governor also blamed federal officials for allowing protesters to camp without a permit on federal property.

“They’re shirking their responsibility here and I don’t believe that they fully appreciate the seriousness of what we’ve got here,” spokesman Jeff Zent said of the federal government.

John DeCarlo, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, said the state needs to take a more active stance or the situation could deteriorate.

“They have to stop and realize that this is going to take mediation, not force. There’s no good that could come out of police using force against indigenous peoples and others who are protesting,” said DeCarlo, who is also a former police chief.

Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, has for several months asked activists to refrain from violence. On Monday, he did not denounce their actions entirely, saying he believes law enforcement is trying to escalate violence.

“Any time you’re backed into a corner, you react,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Keith in Cannon Ball, Ben Klayman in Detroit, Ernest Scheyder in Houston and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

U.S. native groups promised input as pipeline dipute looms

Protesters gather in front of the Bank of North Dakota in Bismarck during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota, U.S.

By Valerie Volcovici and Patrick Rucker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to gather more input from native people as officials contemplate projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to a White House notice posted on Thursday that could delay the controversial plan.

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to “revise its regulations” to ensure its consultations with sovereign tribes are “confirmed by the U.S. Constitution, treaties, statutes, executive orders, judicial decisions and presidential documents and policies.”

The proposed change comes in the form of what is known as an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which states an agency’s intention to issue a new regulation.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages many federal infrastructure projects, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

The pending rule is being contemplated in the final weeks of President Barack Obama’s term when the administration is mulling whether or not to allow the Dakota Access crude pipeline.

President-elect Donald Trump is due to be sworn in on Jan. 20. Under federal law, the incoming president has authority to invalidate many last-minute decisions from an outgoing administration.

The notice, which was posted on the website of the U.S. Office Information and Regulatory Affairs, said the public will be able to comment on the proposal until Jan. 1, 2017.

The Obama administration has been in a quandary over whether to issue a permit to allow the completion of the final leg of the pipeline.

Demonstrators fanned out across North America on Tuesday to demand that the U.S. government either halt or reroute the pipeline, while Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial project, asked a federal court for permission to complete it.

(Additional reporting by Ethan Lou in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates)