ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN INDIAN PHYSICIANS RESOLUTION
October 20, 2016
A Resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Be it resolved by the Association of the American Indian Physicians:
WHEREAS, the Association of American Indian Physicians was founded in 1971 and has over 400 American Indian and Alaska Native physicians as members and;
WHEREAS, the mission of the Association of American Indian Physicians is to pursue excellence in Native American health care by promoting education in the medical disciplines, honoring traditional healing principles and restoring the balance of mind, body, and spirit and;
WHEREAS, the Dakota Access Pipeline, will carry 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day, crossing the Missouri River immediately above the mouth of the Cannonball River on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation and;
WHEREAS, an oil leak into the Missouri River watershed and the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe poses significant mental and physical health threats to this community and;
WHEREAS, this pipeline project violates the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s sovereign right to control their environment, further undermining the health of this community by perpetuating the loss of control of their own health and future;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Association of American Indian Physicians stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline due to its propensity to harm the natural resources of the Tribe causing physical and mental illness and infringing upon the sovereign rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to protect the health and welfare of their community.
Association of American Indian Physicians Background Paper In Support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Their Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline
Submitted By Mary Owen, AAIP Member and Board Treasurer
The Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP), formed in 1971, is the largest organization of Native health care providers in North America, representing over 400 physician members and their patients nationwide. Our primary goal is to improve the health of American Indian and Alaska Natives. AAIP’s mission is “to pursue excellence in Native American health care by promoting education in the medical disciplines, honoring traditional healing principles and restoring the balance of mind, body, and spirit.”
The Association of American Indian Physicians supports the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline for the following reasons:
- An oil leak into the Missouri River watershed and the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe poses a significant health threat to this community.
- Construction of this pipeline violates the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s sovereign right to control their environment.
In 2001, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, stated at the 57th Session of the Commission on Human Rights:
Human rights cannot be secured in a degraded or polluted environment. The fundamental right to life is threatened by soil degradation and deforestation and by exposures to toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes and contaminated drinking water. Environmental conditions clearly help to determine the extent to which people enjoy their basic rights to life, health, adequate food and housing, and traditional livelihood and culture.1
Too often, indigenous communities around the world have experienced the detrimental impact of industrial contamination of their environment. One recent example of an environmental catastrophe that illustrates the threat posed to the Standing Rock Sioux community is the Husky pipeline spill of 250,000 liters of oil into the North Saskatchewan River in the Saskatchewan Province of Canada. Eleven kilometers of the river passes through the James Smith Cree Nation Band’s land providing them with fish and wildlife, a primary food source now contaminated with oil.2
Many studies that document increased rates of illness in areas contaminated with petroleum products are from research on indigenous communities. Just one example is in the Amazon basin of Ecuador where more than 2 billion barrels of crude oil have been extracted since 1972 and where the environment has been contaminated with billions of gallons of untreated waste and oil.3 San Sebastian and Hurtig, in studying the incidence of cancer in several counties of eastern Ecuador which is comprised primarily of indigenous people and peasants, demonstrated that men with increased exposure to oil development areas had significantly elevated relative risk for stomach, rectum, skin melanoma, soft tissue and kidney cancer.4 Similarly exposed women had elevated relative risk for cervical and lymph cancer. Hurtig and Sebastian, 2004, also demonstrate increased relative risk for childhood leukemia in children exposed to contaminants in this same region.5
A contaminated food supply has also been shown to be associated with a higher prevalence of mental illness in impacted communities. Research on communities affected by the Exxon Valdez spill of 11 million gallons of oil into Prince Rupert Sound showed increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.6 Notably, rates of PTSD were higher in Alaska Natives than non-Natives and at least partially attributed to disruption of their subsistence lifestyle.6, 7
Equally important as the physical and mental health threats to the Standing Rock people however, is the threat to their sovereign right to protect their environment and community from harm. As summarized so well by Michael Marmot, Lancet 2007, combatting health inequities and health disparities will require more than improvements in and access to medical care to underserved communities:
There will need to be empowerment of individuals, communities, and whole countries. …Although individuals are at the heart of empowerment, achieving a fairer distribution of power requires collective social action---the empowerment of nations, institutions, and communities.8
Robbing the Standing Rock Sioux of their right to protect their community from potential harm undermines the health of this community by perpetuating the loss of control of their own health and future.
In summary, the Association of American Indian Physicians stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline in that it threatens the physical, mental and spiritual health and welfare of their community.
3. Hurtig, A.K. & Sebastián, M.S. Oil Exploitation in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador: a Public Health Emergency. Oil Exploitation in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador: a Public Health Emergency. Pan American Journal of Health. 2004; 15(3), 205-211.
4. Hurtig, A.K. & Sebastián, M.S. Geographical Differences in Cancer Incidence in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador in Relation to Residence Near Oil Fields. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2002; 31, 1021–1027.
5. Hurtig, A.K. & Sebastian, M.S. Incidence of Childhood Leukemia and Oil
Exploitation in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador. International Journal of
Occupational and Environmental Health. 2004a;10, 245-250.
6. Spill Downs, M.A., Palinkas, L.A., Petterson, J.S., & Russell, J. Ethnic Differences in Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress after the Exxon-Valdez Oil. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. 2004; 19(1), 102-112.
7. Downs, M.A., Palinkas, L.A., Petterson, J.S., & Russell, J. Social, Cultural, and Psychological Impacts of the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill. Human Organization. 1993; 52(1), 1-13.
8. Marmot, Michael, Achieving Health Equity: From Root Causes to Fair Outcomes. The Lancet , Volume 370 , Issue 9593 , 1153 – 1163.