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  • Protesters demonstrate against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, in Los Angeles, California, Sept. 13, 2016.

    Protesters demonstrate against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, in Los Angeles, California, Sept. 13, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 September 2016

In a letter to the U.S. government, archaeologists and anthropologists called for protecting Indigenous lands and stopping the Dakota Access pipeline.

More than 1,200 archaeologists, anthropologists, curators, museum officials and academics have signed a letter in support of the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline and to call on the U.S. government and its agencies to further its halt on the construction of the oil facility.

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In the letter, released Wednesday, a total of 1,281 people slammed the destruction of Native Americans' sacred land.

“We join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in denouncing the recent destruction of ancient burial sites, places of prayer and other significant cultural artifacts sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people,” said the letter, initiated by the Natural History Museum.

The letter, addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama, the United States Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers, added that the destruction and abuse of Native American lands and artifacts add further injury to the long history of violence against Indigenous people worldwide.

“We are familiar with the long history of desecration of Indigenous People’s artifacts and remains worldwide,” the letter said, noting that many of those whose names are on the letter “put countless hours into developing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to prevent burial desecration of this type.”

The controversial pipeline, the letter said, was approved without a full Environmental Impact Statement, and also without any consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes in the region who would be directly affected by the infrastructure.

Among those who signed were David Hurst Thomas, the curator of North American archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History; Richard W. Lariviere, president and chief executive of the Field Museum in Chicago; and Brenda Toineeta Pipestem, chairwoman of the board of the National Museum of the American Indian.

“The destruction of these sacred sites adds yet another injury to the Lakota, Dakota, and other Indigenous Peoples who bear the impacts of fossil fuel extraction and transportation,” the letter said. “If constructed, this pipeline will continue to encourage oil consumption that causes climate change, all the while harming those populations who contributed little to this crisis.”

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The news comes a day after Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux nation, spoke at the United Nations in Geneva, calling on the U.N.’s Human Rights Council to intervene to stop the construction of the pipeline while complaining that U.S. courts had failed his people.

Meanwhile, the Labor Coalition for Community Action, an umbrella group for several U.S. unions, came out against the pipeline and in “solidarity with Native Americans and our allies in protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline and defending Native lands from exploitation by corporations and the U.S. government.”

In a press release sent Monday, the labor unions warned that while cited to bring 4,500 jobs, “the Dakota Access pipeline seriously threatens tribal sovereignty, sacred burial grounds, and the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux and potentially 17 million others.”

Over the past few weeks, the resistance movement to stop construction of the US$3.8 billion pipeline has brought together more than 100 Indigenous groups and sparked a wave of international solidarity.

Last week several federal government agencies suspended work on the construction of a small portion of the US3.8 billion pipeline, pending a more thorough review.

However, Native American nations and environmentalists have vowed to continue the fight against the pipeline until the project is permanently suspended.

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