Letter to St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne in Response to Comments About Standing Rock

Originally posted on the Bold Louisiana site on December 1, 2016 

Photo: Moon rising on the Oceti Sakowin camp on November 12, 2016, by Karen Savage


December 2, 2016

Sheriff Greg Champagne
President, National Sheriffs’ Association
St. Charles Parish Sheriff
15025 River Rd.
Hahnville, LA 70057

Dear Sir,

We write to you today concerning your recounting of your recent visit to North Dakota, published on November 27 to the WWLTV website, as President of the National Sheriff’s Association.

We too have been to Standing Rock, yet our experiences appear to have been very different than yours. While there, and at adjacent resistance camps, we have seen and participated in only prayerful ceremony and actions - all of which included prayers for yourself, the other officers and the families of all involved.

If you are looking as to who has engaged in acts of war, sir, it might be best to see who came for one. A simple Internet search will produce countless images of unarmed Water Protectors being confronted by military-grade weaponry pointed at them by law enforcement.

The several key points that you left out of your assessment require bearing to the public in a way that travels beyond your extreme bias and obvious misunderstanding of both the issue and of the local Louisiana landscape as well.

For instance, you neglected to mention that the Army Corps of Engineers – a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense – has ordered a halt to any construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River until a deeper environmental review can be completed.

Additionally, in your response, you infer that it is only the Missouri River where water protectors have their concern. I assure you, strong opposition to this pipeline can be found all along the route, particularly at the Mississippi River as well.

With reference to your assertion that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has no claim to the lands that the Dakota Access Pipeline disturbs, you show a complete and utter disregard to both history and the Constitution of the United States, which openly declares that treaty law is the law of the land.

Under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty between the U.S. and the Great Sioux Nation, Article 11, the tribe not only retains off-reservation hunting rights to the area, but also under article 12, “no cession of land would be valid unless approved by three-fourths of the adult males.” Yet, in an act of continuing land theft, the U.S. government has never obtained that consent, an issue the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed, stating, "A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability, be found in our history."

You also mentioned sacred sites and burial grounds in your writings, yet you failed to discuss the fact that on September 3 of this year, only hours after Standing Rock Sioux legal representation filed evidence in court that documented a culturally significant site in direct line of the pipeline route, Energy Transfer sent bulldozers to destroy the location. Paid company mercenaries - armed with dogs and pepper spray - were used to shield this egregious and cowardly act, which ended with peaceful protectors being assaulted and bitten.

It is funny to us how you can, as you say, photograph and document “at least half a million dollars in damage to bulldozers and excavators,” yet not one department or DAPL security force has been able to snap a photo of the alleged Molotov cocktails or “various missiles, such as rocks and logs” being thrown.

Nor have you - or any rancher or department - been able to produce a single photo or physical evidence of even one carcass of any so-called “dozen of buffalo” you claim have been killed by protecters. A person would think after 200 years or so, these false allegations would change or evolve in some way.

Regarding your claim that the tribe did not participate or engage in discussions much earlier in the process of approving DAPL, your rumination is unfounded. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council went on record back in 2012, and again in 2014, as standing in opposition to this pipeline crossing the Missouri River.

So you see, sir, the argument has always been about the water and protecting it for the millions of Americans who depend upon it for drinking and thus for life.

Yet of all the ignorant and misguided remarks in your accounting, I take the most extreme offense to the false idea and narrative that the environment and people of the state in which you and I both reside have not suffered largely, due to the disproportionate number of pipelines below our feet.

By your assertion, the opposition to the pipeline “is not reasonably based upon legitimate environmental concerns,” yet since 2010, there have been over 3,300 leaks or ruptures of crude oil or other hazardous liquids from pipelines in the United States. These incidents have not only released toxic chemicals into soil, water, and air, but have also killed 80 people, injured 389 more, and collectively cost $2.8 billion in damages.

Louisiana is not excluded from these pipeline disasters. Since 1996, there have been 391 significant pipeline spills or leaks in Louisiana, spilling 216,166 barrels of hazardous liquids, including crude oil, refined petroleum products, propane, ethane, etc. In just crude oil alone, there were 208 reported leaks or spills, resulting in 124,861 barrels released.

The most recent oil spill from a pipeline in Louisiana was last September, in which over 5,300 gallons of crude oil was discharged, and 200 birds were oiled.

In late July of this year, there were three pipeline spills in ten days. These are not uncommon incidents. In fact, the National Response Center receives approximately 1,500 oil spill notifications for Louisiana each year. This represents approximately 20 percent of all spills occurring in the United States.

Supplementary to your concern for our “energy independence,” it might be noted that Dakota Access parent company Energy Transfer is also building the Bayou Bridge Pipeline here in Louisiana.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline that will cross 11 parishes in our state, displace 600 acres of wetlands, cross 700 bodies of water, and endanger life and livelihoods of fisherfolk in the Atchafalaya Basin. The end point for this sister pipeline to Dakota Access is being constructed with the singular goal of Energy Transfer and its partners receiving opportunity for the best refining cost for their product, before exporting through our ports to foreign countries across the globe. Both the Dakota Access and the Bayou Bridge Pipelines are for the profit of this corporation only.

However, we will agree with you on one thing with regard to your report. “Facts do not weigh in favor” of the tribe or the water protectors, or the State of Louisiana - but only when you refuse to see them.

Further, we stand with you when you say that it is “time for everyone to move on in reference to the Dakota Access Pipeline and stop putting further strain on the citizens and law enforcement officers.”

It is time to end both the Dakota Access and the Bayou Bridge pipelines.

#NoDAPL #NoBayouBridge #WaterisLife


Monique Verdin
Citizen of the United Houma Nation

Cherri Foytlin
Louisiana Resident
State Director of Bold Louisiana