The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, on March 3 called for the US to adopt a consistent approach to indigenous land rights in pipeline projects. The Special Rapporteur voiced concerns about how indigenous peoples were not fully consulted on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). She said that after a fact-finding trip to the US, she was disturbed by reports "regarding the criminalization of indigenous peoples asserting their right to protest in the now-world famous struggle of several tribes" in opposition to the DAPL. While the protests "have been almost completely non-violent and peaceful, there has been a militarized, at times violent, escalation of force by local law enforcement and private security forces."
Tauli-Corpuz acknowledged the US government's stated US "commitment to a process of consultation with tribal governments."
But challenges remain. The contemporary executive action that provides the most direct guidance on consultation with tribes, Executive Order 13175, while well intentioned, has developed into a confusing and disjointed framework that suffers from loopholes, ambiguity, and a general lack of accountability. The regulatory regime has failed to ensure effective and informed consultations with tribal governments. The breakdown of communication and lack of good faith involvement in the review of federal projects has left tribal governments functionally unable to participate in consequential dialogue with the United States on projects affecting their lands, territories, and resources.
The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report containing her findings and recommendations to the United States government in September.
From Jurist, March 5. Used with permission.