In a show of solidarity, Representative Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City) filed a resolution last week to “Support the Standing Rock Sioux to Protect their Religious Freedom, Lands & Waters.” The proposal comes only days after the Salt Lake City Council, together with Mayor Jackie Biskupski, unanimously approved a similar resolution.
“Injustice anywhere is intolerable,” Romero said. “Utah has a unique history working with local tribes and striving to respect the sovereignty and religious freedom of tribes and tribal lands. We are a state that fights to protect our right to worship. We fight to protect our lands, and understand their value and our responsible stewardship over them.”
Drafted with the assistance of the Utah League of Native American Voters, a non-partisan organization which was also involved with putting together the Salt Lake City resolution, Romero’s proposal calls for both respecting and protecting tribal sovereignty. In addition to calling for legal, administrative, and legislative efforts to halt construction of the pipeline, the resolution will also ask the federal government to follow through on its commitment to conduct a full review of the project. If passed, the resolution is to be forwarded to the Trump administration. Romero also plans on sending letters to President Barack Obama and Utah’s Congressional delegation.
Protests centered around the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) through Sioux Nation land have been ongoing since April. The location, approximately 20 miles south of Bismark, North Dakota, became a flashpoint when a Standing Rock Sioux Elder set up a camp as a center for resistance to construction pipeline that runs from the northwest portion of the state to south central Illinois. Thousands have since made their way to the camp with protesters and the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Tribe raising concerns that the pipeline poses a serious threat to the Tribe’s cultural and spiritual sites and water resources for 12 million people.
Originally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to shut down the camp by December 5. They walked back that idea Sunday, saying it has “no plans for forcible removal” of protesters. North Dakota Governor, Jack Dalrymple (Republican), issued a mandatory evacuation order for the protesters Monday, citing North Dakota’s harsh winters as a factor. Although the order states that those who choose to stay behind could face legal consequences, North Dakota officials said that the state would not forcibly remove people.
Romero’s bill is unique in that it is the first Standing Rock resolution in the United States to be introduced at the state level. The resolution will be considered during the 2017 General Session, which is slated to convene Monday, January 23.