The Sioux Tribe’s lawsuits and protests against the Dakota Access Pipelines (DAPL) received an incredible amount of international attention in ways that many Indigenous peoples’ protests have not. This article argues that attention exists because the Sioux Tribe has been at the epicenter of the Indigenous peoples’ rights movement in international law. Accordingly, they have invoked or claimed international human rights—particularly free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC)— to complicate, and perhaps destabilize, the DAPL’s development. However, the importance of their activism is not merely in claiming human rights.

Based upon a global map of law that involves multiple and overlapping legalities, this article tracks the Sioux Tribe’s activism according to the problem-solving approach. Accordingly, the Sioux Tribe is advancing a different model of legality, one that is not based on a top-down command and control authority. This article reveals a complex, global network of intercommunal Indigenous peoples and nonstate actors by tracing the historical trajectory of the Sioux Tribe, its opposition to the DAPL, its role in the Indigenous peoples’ rights movement, and the novel extra-national legalities the Sioux Tribe is helping to formalize.



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