feature image via shutterstock
Today the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not approve easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built underneath Lake Oahe, where it would endanger the wellbeing and water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux. This moment comes after months of organized resistance by water protectors in Standing Rock and the coordination of hundreds of different Native American tribes and nations, and most recently after over 2000 US veterans announced they would travel to Standing Rock to provide a nonviolent “human shield” for water protectors. Water protectors have endured incredible hardships in their struggle, from law enforcement using rubber bullets and water cannons against them in freezing temperatures to an attempted blockade of supplies into the camps. Instead of using the current proposed route for the DAPL, the Army Corps of Engineers says it will plan to put together an environmental impact statement, which many hope will show that the pipeline would be too dangerous and expensive to be worth completing.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II issued a statement, which can be read in full here, that acknowledges the significance of the victory and thanks all those who worked for it.
“Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes. We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision.
We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need.
The statement also calls for continuing respect for treaty rights and Indigenous nationhood. With the prospect of a Trump administration hanging overhead, that certainly isn’t a given; as per this statement from Senator Heidi Heitkamp (as tweeted by Chris Geidner), the Trump administration has already voiced its support for the pipeline, and she seems to hope that the project will continue.
Dem Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who met with Trump last week, says "today's move doesn't actually bring finality," pipeline "remains in limbo." pic.twitter.com/TMWI9EO1Ue
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) December 4, 2016
As Ruth Hopkins tweets, it’s also possible that the team responsible for building the pipeline will continue with work anyways. Local law enforcement, which has so far demonstrated violence toward water protectors, has issued a statement claiming it “does not have an opinion” and that “our role is to enforce the law and that is what we will continue to do.”
Those at camp are being encouraged to stick around because it's expected that Dakota Access will drill anyway, without permit. #NoDAPL
— Ruth Hopkins ⚡️❤️⚡️ (@Ruth_HHopkins) December 4, 2016
Regardless of the challenges that still lie ahead, from the DAPL project to Native safety and sovereignty in general, this news is a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies and proof of the power and determination of the thousands of people who have organized together over many months and despite great personal risk.