Standing Rock Indian Reservation

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Standing Rock Indian Reservation
Indian reservation
Standing Rock Indian Reservation straddles the border between North and South Dakota
Standing Rock Indian Reservation straddles the border between North and South Dakota
Standing Rock logo.png

Coordinates: 45°45′0″N 101°12′0″W / 45.75000°N 101.20000°W / 45.75000; -101.20000Coordinates: 45°45′0″N 101°12′0″W / 45.75000°N 101.20000°W / 45.75000; -101.20000
Country United States
State North Dakota
South Dakota
North Dakota Counties Sioux County
Ziebach County
South Dakota Counties Corson County
Dewey County
 • Land 3.6 sq mi (9.3 km2)
Population (2000)
 • Total 8,250
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) CST (UTC-4)
ZIP code 58538
Area code(s) 701

The Standing Rock Indian Reservation is a Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota Indian reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota in the United States. The sixth-largest reservation in land area in the United States, Standing Rock includes all of Sioux County, North Dakota, and all of Corson County, South Dakota, plus slivers of northern Dewey and Ziebach Counties in South Dakota, along their northern county lines at Highway 20.

The reservation has a land area of 9,251.2 square kilometers (3,571.9 sq mi) and a population of 8,250 as of the 2000 census.[1] The largest communities on the reservation are Fort Yates, Cannon Ball and McLaughlin. Other communities within the reservation include: Wakpala, Little Eagle, Bullhead, Porcupine, Kenel, McIntosh, Morristown, Selfridge, Solen.


The Yanktonai Dakota live in North Dakota; the Hunkpapa Lakota live in South Dakota. The Upper Yanktonai people spoke a language called Ihanktonwana, which translates as "Little End Village". The Lower Yanktonai were called Hunkpatina in their language, meaning "Campers at the Horn" or "End of the Camping Circle". Thunder Butte, a prominent landmark, is along the border between the Standing Rock Reservation and the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. The Cheyenne River Lakota Nation were historical a nomadic people living in tipis. Their Plains Indian culture was based strongly upon buffalo and horse culture.

In the late 19th century, Sitting Bull was a highly respected Lakota war chief and medicine man, who led the Lakota in years of resistance to the United States. He commanded forces, with the assistance of other leaders including Gall, that defeated General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Not long after the battle, however, many of the Lakota and their allies moved to Canada. A group (including Gall) returned to the United States in 1881 after splitting with Sitting Bull, and were resettled on this reservation. After touring with a Wild West show, Sitting Bull returned to this reservation in 1890, but was shot dead at Fort Yates by a tribal policeman in a bungled confrontation possibly involving the Ghost Dance movement, and was buried there. In 1953 his remains were exhumed and reinterred on the reservation near his birthplace, at a site overlooking the Missouri River at present-day Mobridge, South Dakota. The tribal college, Sitting Bull College, established in the 1970s, was named in his honor. His people, the Hunkpapa (Húŋkpapȟa), mainly reside on this reservation. Húŋkpapȟa means "Head of the Circle", due to the tradition of their setting their lodges at the entryway to the circle during Sioux council.

Originally having a territory of 4 million acres (16,000 km2) when established in 1864, the reservation was reduced in size after the Indian Wars of the 19th century. This made more land available for sale to and development by American settlers.

Governance and districts[edit]

Standing Rock Administrative Service building, Fort Yates

According to its constitution,[2] Standing Rock's governing body is the elected 17-member Tribal Council, including the Tribal Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, and 14 representatives: six at-large and eight from its regional districts:

In 2014, President Barack Obama accompanied by Michelle Obama made his first visit to an Indian reservation during the annual Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration.[3] It was one of the few visits by a sitting American President to an Indian reservation.[4] His visit was met with mixed feelings by the reservation, with concerns that specifics on treaty issues and government appropriations were not addressed.[5]


In the 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation built five large dams on the Missouri River, and implemented the Pick–Sloan Missouri Basin Program, forcing Native Americans to relocate from flooded areas. Over 200,000 acres on the Standing Rock Reservation and the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota were flooded by the Oahe Dam alone. As of 2015, poverty remains a problem for the displaced populations in the Dakotas, who are still seeking compensation for the loss of the towns submerged under Lake Oahe, and the loss of their traditional ways of life.[6]

Mascot issue with University of North Dakota[edit]

The athletic teams of the University of North Dakota (UND) were known as the Fighting Sioux. Controversy surrounding the use of Native American mascots prompted the NCAA to ban the use of "hostile and abusive" Native American mascots in August 2005.[7] An exception was made to allow the use of tribal names if they are approved by that tribe.[8] Since the Tribal Council of the Standing Rock Sioux has not approved UND's use of "Fighting Sioux",[9][10] the ban applied to UND. After years with no mascot, UND became the Fighting Hawks in 2015.

Dakota Access Pipeline[edit]

Further information: ReZpect Our Water

In the summer of 2016, a group of young activists from Standing Rock ran from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., to present a petition in protest of the construction of Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access Pipeline, which is part of the Bakken pipeline, and have launched an international campaign called ReZpect our Water.[11] The pipeline which goes from North Dakota to Illinois, the activists argue, would jeopardize the water source of the reservation, the Missouri River.[12][13] The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has filed an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop building the pipeline.[14][15] In April 2016, three federal agencies -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Interior, and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation—requested full Environmental Impact Statement of the pipeline.[16] In August 2016, protests were held near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.[17]

Peaceful protests at pipeline site continued and drew indigenous people from throughout North America as well as other supporters. A number of planned arrests occurred when people locked themselves to heavy machinery.[18] On September 3, 2016, the Dakota Access Pipeline brought in a private security firm. The company used bulldozers to dig up part of the pipeline route that subject to a pending injunction motion; it contained possible Native graves and burial artifacts. The bulldozers arrived within a day from when the tribe filed legal action.[19] When unarmed protesters moved near the bulldozers, the guards used pepper spray and guard dogs to protect the site they were told to guard. At least six protesters were treated for dog bites and an estimated 30 protesters were pepper sprayed before the security guards and their dogs exited the scene in trucks.[20]

A tribal elder addressing people at the protest area
Further information: [[:Bakken pipeline]]

The Standing Rock Sioux Native American tribe in North Dakota established the Standing Stone Camp, uniting a motley coalition of at least 200 other Native American tribes,[21] environmentalists and other activists.[22] Protests at the pipeline site in North Dakota began in the summer of 2016 and drew indigenous people from throughout North America as well as other supporters, creating the largest gathering of Native Tribes in the past 100 years of American History.[23] A number of planned arrests occurred when people locked themselves to heavy machinery in civil disobedience.[24] Fire has also been thrown at mass social media website Facebook for assisting the local authorities in censoring the protestors.[25]

On September 3, 2016, Dakota Access brought in a private security firm when it used bulldozers to dig up part of the pipeline route on land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outside the reservation,[26] which was subject at the time to a pending injunction motion; it contained possible Native graves and burial artifacts. The bulldozers arrived within a day of the tribe filing legal action.[27] When unarmed protesters moved in to stop the bulldozers, the guards used pepper spray and guard dogs to attack. At least six protesters were treated for dog bites and about 30 protesters were pepper sprayed before the security guards and their dogs left in trucks.[20][28] The pipeline construction company claimed they hired the security company because the protests have not been peaceful.[26] The Morton County Sheriff, Kyle Kirchmeier, described the September 3, 2016 protest saying protesters crossed onto private property and attacked security guards with "wooden posts and flag poles." He said, "Any suggestion that today's event was a peaceful protest, is false."[29] The sheriff told reporters that he had heard rumors of pipe bombs, but according to Bill McKibben, founder of a group connected to the protests, "it turned out he’d heard rumors about ceremonial peace pipes".[30]

Shortly after being confronted at a televised town hall meeting with Laotian University Students on September 7, 2016,[31] President Barack Obama gave the order to halt the construction of the pipeline until further environmental assessments have taken place.[32]

Dakota Access agreed to halt construction in parts of North Dakota until September 9 to help "keep the peace."[33] When a federal judge denied the injunction sought by the tribe on the 9th, the Department of the Interior, Department of Justice and the Department of the Army ( which oversees the Corps of Engineers, stepped in halting construction of the pipeline around Lake Oahe[34] 20 miles either side of the Lake, but not halting the project altogether.[35]

A Colonial Pipeline Leak believed to have began sometime on September 12, 2016 in Alabama, spilled an estimated amount of 350,000 gallons of gasoline, further fueling the criticism of the Dakota Access Pipeline from The Standing Rock Tribe.[36]

As of late September 2016, major U.S. broadcast news outlets have given scant attention to the Standing Rock protests, even after video was aired on Democracy Now! showing Dakota Access guard dogs with bloody mouths after attacking protesters.[22] Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman filmed the incident, which she published in support of the Native American opposition to the pipeline.[37] Following the publishing of her video, North Dakota Police issued an arrest warrant under accusations of Criminal Trespass. Goodman responded “This is an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press...”[38] There had also been no comments made by presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton[39] regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. Defeated Democratic Presidential Candidate nominee Bernie Sanders spoke out against the oppression of Native American People, as well as the Dakota Access Pipeline.[40]

On September 23, 2016, two days after Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II addressed the United Nations Standing Rock received news that the property being occupied to stage their protests had been purchased by the Energy Transfer Partners, from David and Brenda Meyer of Flasher, ND, in an assumed attempt to deter further protests that may continue to hinder the construction of the pipeline.[41] The Sioux Nation claims that David and Brenda Meyer permitted their land to be used for staging.

Media Discussion[edit]

Al Jazeera America's Malika Bilal hosted a discussion on The Stream.[when?] Parties of the discussion included Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, Laborers' International Union of North America Representative Kevin Pranis, Bismarck Tribune reporter Lauren Donovan, Native American Activist Winona LaDuke, and Indian Country Today Media Network journalist Simon Moya Smith. Pranis described the necessity of the pipeline as "Critical," for the current mode of transporting from the Bakken region has been through rail, claiming that the pipeline is a safer and more environmental alternative, backing a statement from Energy Transfer Partners "Underground Pipelines are the safest mode of transporting crude oil..." [42] LaDuke challenged Pranis' statement claiming "The pipelines (being buried) are trying to put it (the oil) out of sight and out of mind." Smith claimed that the pipeline crosses territory of the Fort Laramie Treaty. Pranis challenged Smith claiming that Standing Rock did not participate in any public hearings during the planning stages of the pipeline, and criticized protestors for driving to Standing Rock in their gasoline powered vehicles. Archambault challenged Pranis by claiming his people received no notification or invitation to the public hearings from the State of North Dakota, nor Energy Transfer Partners. Donovan was asked to respond to Archambault's statement of "untruthful media" in which she did so by saying "We don't always get the story straight. We should do our best, and would be open to any conversation with him (Archambault) about it." Archambault replied "No matter what is said or presented to the media, there's always a twist to it. The media tries to grab attention, rather than trying to display that facts." LaDuke claimed the Enbridge Company which bought into the Dakota Access Pipeline already has 800 spills. Simon had an arguing point that when oil spills and fracking leaks occur, the oil companies refuse to release the chemicals and toxins to the medical community to treat affected individuals. He also claimed that Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other demographic, and that Natives were nearly extinct "in the name of progress." After all of the criticism toward Pranis, the conversation was ended abruptly, for Pranis' laptop battery exhausted its power.[43]

Protest in popular culture[edit]

Rock icon Neil Young composed and released a song entitled "Indian Giver" about the pipeline protests.[22]

In August and September of 2016, protests have taken place in several parts of the country, including Salt Lake City,[44] Portland,[45] Seattle,[46] Washington D.C.,[47] and some international demonstrations have also taken place.

The Episcopal Church (United States) took a stance in support of the protests, after their presiding bishop Michael Curry (bishop) released a statement "It's my hope that the federal government, working with the various (tribal) nations who are affected by the pipeline, and working with the company involved, can come to a reasonable resolution, one that honors the need for energy but that does so in ways that protect the environment that God has given all of us and that respects sacred burial grounds of the native, indigenous people that live there."[48] Bishop Curry visited Standing Rock September 24–25, 2016 for further support of the united Native American tribal voices.[49]

American celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Pharrell Williams, Jane O'Meara Sanders, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher (actor), Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller,[50] Susan Sarandon, Riley Keough, and Shailene Woodley.[51][52] have also voiced their support of Standing Rock's opposition to the pipeline.

Notable tribal members[edit]


  1. ^ "Standing Rock Reservation, South Dakota/North Dakota". Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1) 100-Percent Data. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  2. ^ "Standing Rock Constitution, approved 1958, with amendments through 2008" (PDF). Standing Rock Tribe. Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  3. ^ Zezima, Katie (13 June 2014). "As Obama makes rare presidential visit to Indian reservation, past U.S. betrayals loom" (Includes video of President's address). The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  4. ^ Thiele, Raina (20 June 2014). "The President and First Lady's Historic Visit to Indian Country". Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  5. ^ Montagne, Renee; Kent, Jim (13 June 2014). "Sioux Reservation Has Mixed Feelings About Obama Visit". Morning Edition. NPR. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  6. ^ Lee, Trymaine. "No Man's Land: The Last Tribes of the Plains. As industry closes in, Native Americans fight for dignity and natural resources". MSNBC - Geography of Poverty Northwest. Retrieved 2015-09-28. >
  7. ^ "NCAA Bans Indian Mascots". NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  8. ^ Powell, Robert Andrew (August 25, 2005). "Florida State wins its battle to remain the Seminoles". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  9. ^ Kolpack, Dave (2009-09-21). "Chairman says tribe won't approve Fighting Sioux". Native American Times. Retrieved 2014-10-12. 
  10. ^ Conlon, Kevin (August 14, 2011). "North Dakota, NCAA spar over mascot". CNN. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  11. ^ Amundson, Barry (29 July 2016). "Standing Rock tribe sues over Dakota Access pipeline permits". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  12. ^ Dunlap, Tiare (5 August 2016). "These Native American Youths Are Running 2,000 Miles to Protect Their Water". People. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  13. ^ MacPherson, James (30 July 2016). "Standing Rock Sioux sues Corps over Bakken pipeline permits". The Des Moines Register. The Associated Press. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  14. ^ Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (27 July 2016). "Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief" (PDF). In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (1:16-cv-01534-Document 1). Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  15. ^ Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (4 August 2016). "Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction Expedited Hearing Requested" (PDF). In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (1:16-cv-1534-JEB). Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  16. ^ ICTMN Staff (28 April 2016). "Dakota Access Pipeline: Three Federal Agencies Side With Standing Rock Sioux, Demand Review". Indian Country Today Media Network. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  17. ^ Healy, Jack (23 August 2016). "Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2016. 
  18. ^ Fulton, Deirdre (September 1, 2016). "'World Watching' as Tribal Members Put Bodies in Path of Dakota Pipeline". Common Dreams. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  19. ^ McCauley, Lauren (September 5, 2016). "'Is That Not Genocide?' Pipeline Co. Bulldozing Burial Sites Prompts Emergency Motion". Common Dreams. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  20. ^ a b Manning, Sarah Sunshine (4 September 2016). "'And Then the Dogs Came': Dakota Access Gets Violent, Destroys Graves, Sacred Sites". Indian Country Today Media Retrieved 6 September 2016.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Manning" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
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  22. ^ a b c "Dakota Access Blackout Continues on ABC, NBC News". Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2016. 
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  24. ^ Fulton, Deirdre (September 1, 2016). "'World Watching' as Tribal Members Put Bodies in Path of Dakota Pipeline". Common Dreams. Retrieved September 6, 2016. 
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  26. ^ a b Healy, Jack (26 August 2016). "North Dakota Oil Pipeline Battle: Who's Fighting and Why". The New York Times. 
  27. ^ McCauley, Lauren (September 5, 2016). "'Is That Not Genocide?' Pipeline Co. Bulldozing Burial Sites Prompts Emergency Motion". Common Dreams. Retrieved September 6, 2016. 
  28. ^ Amy Goodman (3 September 2016). "Dakota Access Pipeline Company Attacks Native American Protesters with Dogs & Pepper Spray". Democracy Now. YouTube. pp. 7 minutes. Retrieved 25 September 2016. 
  29. ^ AP (3 September 2016). "Oil pipeline protest turns violent in southern North Dakota". UK Daily Mail. 
  30. ^ Bill McKibben (6 September 2016). "A Pipeline Fight and America's Dark Past". The New Yorker. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
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  33. ^ "Company Agrees to Halt N. Dakota Pipeline Work Until Friday". Reuters. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  34. ^ Taliman, Valerie (9 September 2016). "Moments After Judge Denies DAPL Injunction, Federal Agencies Intervene". Indian Country Today Media Retrieved 17 September 2016. 
  35. ^ Michael Leland, Iowa Public Radio (15 September 2016). "Bakken pipeline opposition presents petitions to U.S. Justice Department". Radio Iowa. Retrieved 25 September 2016. 
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