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General News    H2'ed 9/20/16

Free Speech at Standing Rock on Federal/Treaty Lands

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On Friday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a Special Use Permit click here to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Corps informed Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II that the Tribe's Spiritual gathering on the south bank of the Cannonball River was granted a Special Use Permit. In somewhat obtuse language the press release said the permit "allows the Tribe to gather to engage in a lawful free speech demonstration on Federal lands designated in the permit."

On first read, this seems to be a step forward, but is it really? That pesky Devil might be lurking in the details.

Once again the issue of First Amendment Rights is raised. Do you need a permit to engage in free speech, especially on treaty-contested lands? Do you need a permit to engage in free speech anywhere for that matter?

Looking north to Main Camp
Looking north to Main Camp
(Image by Georgianne Nienaber)
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The Tribe had requested use of the land located north and south of the Cannonball River. The Corps did not address use of the northern property, which houses the largest camp and the one visible and accessible from Highway 1806. The Corps cited a grazing lease as the reason the property was not included in the permit.

Main Camp
Main Camp
(Image by Georgianne Nienaber)
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There are other restrictions in the permit, including the legality click here of "structures."

Additional permission will be required for activities identified in Title 36 such as construction, either temporary or permanent, of any structures within areas identified in the Special Use Permit.

Whether this additional permission will include tipis and longhouses now under construction will be something to watch as winter begins to settle over the Great Plains.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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