Dear Army Corps of Engineers… #MyLettertotheArmyCorps #noDAPL #WaterisLife #EISComments

Dear Army Corps of Engineers,

My name is Ayisah Yusuf who lives in Fairfax, Virginia a small town about 20 minutes outside of our nations capital. I am a 25 year old indigenous African American young women who is writing to you today to comment on the proposed pipeline on the North Dakota Sioux or Lakota, Nakota, Dakota tribal land.


This notice advises the public that the Department of the Army (Army), as lead agency, is gathering information necessary to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) in connection with Dakota Access, LLC’s request to grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe, which is on the Missouri River and owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). This notice opens the public scoping phase and invites interested parties to identify potential issues, concerns, and reasonable alternatives that should be considered in an EIS.

The proposed crossing of Lake Oahe by Dakota Access, LLC is approximately 0.5 miles upstream of the northern boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. The Tribe protests the crossing primarily because it relies on Lake Oahe for water for a variety of purposes, the Tribe’s reservation boundaries encompass portions of Lake Oahe downstream from the proposed crossing, and the Tribe retains water, treaty fishing, and hunting rights in the Lake.

The proposed crossing of Corps property requires the granting of a right-of-way (easement) under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), 30 U.S.C. 185. To date, the Army has not made a final decision on whether to grant the easement pursuant to the MLA. The Army intends to prepare an EIS to consider any potential impacts to the human environment that the grant of an easement may cause.


The 408 permission was accompanied by a Finding of No Significant Impact based on an Environmental Assessment (EA), as contemplated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The EA included a brief description and characterization of factors used in evaluating a potential alternative crossing location that was considered and eliminated during the analysis phase. The alternative route, which was eliminated, would cross the Missouri River approximately 10 miles north of Bismarck, ND.

On July 25, 2016, the Corps granted permission to applicant Dakota Access, LLC, under Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, 33 U.S.C. 408 (408 permission), for a proposed pipeline crossing of Lake Oahe. Lake Oahe is on the Missouri River and owned by the Corps. The approximate 1,172-mile pipeline connects the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil market near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is 30 inches in diameter and is projected to transport approximately 570,000 barrels per day.

On December 4, 2016, the Army determined that a decision on whether to authorize the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location merits additional analysis, more rigorous exploration and evaluation of reasonable siting alternatives, and greater public and tribal participation and comments as contemplated in the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ’s) NEPA implementing regulations, 40 CFR 1502.14 and 1503.1. Currently, the Corps is developing a plan to implement the Army’s December 4, 2016 direction. This notice of public scoping should be integrated into the Corps’ plan of action.

I personally have been to Standing Rock myself during Thanksgiving weekend of 2016 with my mother, my aunties and sisters and seen first hand how important this land and water really is to this tribe as well as the thousands of millions of people’s land and water that are being affected by this pipeline because as we know all pipelines brake and this one is no different. While I was in Standing Rock I was fortunate to be able to be apart of a ceremony the Lakota women had to honor a very important figure in their culture the White Buffalo Calf Women.

The White Buffalo Calf Women is a sacred woman of supernatural origin, central to the Lakota religion as the primary cultural prophet. Oral traditions relate that she brought the “Seven Sacred Rites” to the Lakota people. Buffalo are considered sacred to many of the Plains nations, who often consider them linked to creation, medicine and bringers of sacred messages from the ancestors.

I talked about this important woman to say that this movement has been lead by indigenous women of all age’s grandmas, moms, sisters, and nieces. They all have been at the front line fighting prayerfully and peacefully against the Morton County Sheriff Department and National Guard. The first people to be arrested back in August where women, the person to get her arm blown off was a women, the person to get her pregnant belly bitten by a dog September 3rd was a women & the first baby born into the Water Protectors camp was a baby girl.

I say all of this to say that by hurting our women you are hurting our mother Earth. As indigenous women myself I understand how important women are and our connection to mother Earth is. By digging up our Earth and polluting our water us women we can literally feel the rape and torture in our own bodies as if you were digging us up and polluting our bodies.

Besides the for mentioned reasons why the Dakota Access Pipeline should not go through we also must think of our next 7 generations. In the Lakota prophecy it is said that 7 generations ago a Lakota medicine man told his people that the 7th generation would be the change of the people and it would be the time where we all stand up and stand together. As a child of the millennial generation I care about the well being of this Earth and having natural resources for my children and my children’s children for the next 7 generations and beyond.

The mistreatment of the Water Protectors in North Dakota is outrageous and is blatant police brutality. As a person who is both indigenous and African American we have a history of being mistreated by the police so this is no different. The Water Protectors have been unarmed the whole time on our side but the police have just used brutal tactics to brake our spirits everything from water canons in sub zero degree weather in the middle of the night to production grenades to bear gas and even worse things. The female Water Protectors when they got arrested where thrown in dog cages and strip-searched and just treated with such a lack of respect. I ask would these officers treat their mothers, wives or daughters this way?

As far as an alternative location for the pipeline that will cross the Missouri River, I don’t really have one as we don’t actually want a pipeline anywhere on mother Earth as we know they are dangerous to our communities. The potential risks and impacts of an oil spill, and potential impacts to Lake Oahe, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water intakes, and the Tribe’s water, treaty fishing, and hunting rights is very severe as we know pipelines burst and oil spills happen all the time.

Lastly I ask the Army Corps of Engineers to honor the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 an agreement between the United States and the Oglala, Miniconjou, and Brulé bands of Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota, and Arapaho Nation signed on April 29, 1868 at Fort Laramie in the Wyoming Territory, guaranteeing the Lakota ownership of the Black Hills, and further land and hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The Powder River Country was to be henceforth closed to all whites. The treaty ended Red Cloud’s War. I ask you to honor all the treaties the American government has broken with indigenous tribes over the past 500 years in this country.

In conclusion the Army Corps of Engineers I ask that you honor the treaties, protect our mother Earth not only for us but also for your children and their children and the next 7 generations to come. So that we can all live on an Earth were we can have fresh air to breath, running clean water and beautiful land to grow our food and medicine on.

I hope the Army Corps of Engineers finds this letter informative and helps to make a point as to why the Dakota Access Pipeline should not be built on treaty land or on any land for the safety of the people and the Earth and remember Mni Wiconi – Water is Life!


Thank you for you time and cooperation,

Ayisah Yusuf


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