Audio shows Standing Rock Sioux tribe objected to pipeline two years ago

Recently released audio from a 2014 meeting between the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access Pipeline executives contradict the company’s statements that it knew nothing of the tribe’s concerns about the new pipeline.

The Sioux have filed a lawsuit in hopes of rerouting the pipeline, which they argue would damage sacred sites and their main water supply. The proposed route runs less than a mile from their reservation boundary.

The Sioux published the audio file last month after Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the pipeline, made the remarks in a Wall Street Journal interview.

“I really wish for the Standing Rock Sioux that they had engaged in discussions way before they did. I don’t think we would have been having this discussion if they did,” Warren was quoted as saying. “We could have changed the route. It could have been done, but it’s too late.”

The meeting, between representatives from the Standing Rock Sioux and Chuck Frey, vice president of Energy Transfer Partners, was held two years before the tribe filed its federal lawsuit to stop the pipeline.

“We are not stupid people. We are not ignorant people,” Former tribal council member Phyllis Young said in the meeting. “Do not underestimate the people of Standing Rock. We know what’s going on, and we know what belongs to us, and we know what we have to keep for our children and our grandchildren.”

Frey said that the company worked to avoid tribal areas when drawing up the pipeline and asked tribal officials for maps of sacred areas and burial grounds, which were not publicly available.

When asked about the Sioux’s concerns on the PBS NewsHour, Warren said the group had declined offers to work together.

“This was after great consultation with the Army Corps of Engineers, the offering up for consultation with also the Standing Rock Sioux, which they didn’t choose to do,” Warren said.

Standing Rock Sioux leaders have said they had difficulty meeting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss their concerns, according to The Bismarck Tribune. However, a U.S. District judge ruled in September 2015 that the agency did make attempts to consult the tribe multiple times without response.

According to North Dakota Public Service Commission Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak, the tribe did not attend three 2015 public hearings to express their concerns.

“It is still difficult for me to understand why the tribe didn’t intervene in the process and have a seat at the table,” said Fedorchak.

A surge of celebrities and environmental activists have traveled to North Dakota in recent months to protest the 1,172-mile pipeline that is nearly complete. The Army Corps issued a letter last month ordering protesters to leave by December 5.

The Standing Rock Sioux have said they do not plan to leave and will continue fighting the project.