A Victory for Indigenous People Everywhere: Dakota Access Pipeline Route Denied

Water protectors from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and their allies from hundreds of indigenous communities, and from around the world have been occupying the Sacred Stone Camp in Cannonball, North Dakota in peaceful protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline since the April of 2016.

On Sunday December 4th, 2016, the day before the Army Corps of Engineers eviction order for water protectors at Standing Rock would go into effect, the secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers told Standing Rock Sioux Nation chairman Dave Archambault II that the planned destructive route of the Dakota Access Pipeline would be denied. This decision represents a victory for the water protectors who have been defending the sacred lands of Standing Rock Sioux since April, and a victory for indigenous communities around the world.

They confirmed that the pipeline will not in fact cross beneath the Missouri River, the only source of drinking water for the tribe. In addition, they will be conducting an Environmental Impact Statement when considering the alternative route for the pipeline. Chairman Dave Archambault II commented by saying:

    “This is something that will go down in history and I know that it’s a blessing for all indigenous peoples.”

Water protectors celebrate at Standing Rock

Water protectors celebrate at Standing Rock

If completed using the previously planned route, the pipeline would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day through four states, across sacred lands, and beneath the Missouri River, the only source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

Several companies behind the pipeline are Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco Logistics Partners, and Phillips 66 through the federal agency, Army Corps of Engineers.

The construction is being funded by seventeen banks. Even longterm business owner and United States President-elect Donald Trump has invested in the pipeline, according to the Huffington Post he invested approximately $50,000 in Energy Transfer Partners and $100,000 in Phillips 66. Energy Transfer Partners donated approximately $100,000 to his presidential campaign. Nevertheless, the President-elect claims he supports the the pipeline not for his company’s financial interest, but because he believes it will “benefit all americans”.

    “The place where pipeline will cross on the Cannonball is the place where the Mandan came into the world after the great flood, it is also a place where the Mandan had their Okipa, or Sundance. Later this is where Wisespirit and Tatanka Ohitika held sundances. There are numerous old Mandan, Cheyenne, and Arikara villages located in this area and burial sites. This is also where the sacred medicine rock [is located], which tells the future.”

    LaDonna Brave bull Allard (Lakota, Dakota citizen, founder of the Standing Rock camp).

Water protectors pray to Mother Earth at Sacred Stone Camp

Water protectors pray to Mother Earth at Sacred Stone Camp.

Initially, the pipeline was planned to cross just north of Standing Rock Sioux reservation through the town of Bismarck, North Dakota, but it was quickly rerouted due to Bismarck citizens’ concern for water contamination. Instead of the town of Bismarck, it was then the Standing Rock Sioux nation’s citizens that ran the risk of losing their water source and their sacred lands.Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, Dave Archambault II asks that indigenous community members receive “the same consideration as other citizens”. The first rerouting of the Dakota Access Pipeline is just one of the reasons that Reverend and civil rights advocate, Jesse Jackson, along with thousands of activists call this “the ripest case of environmental racism I’ve seen in a long time.”

Water protectors stand between law enforcement and the Missouri River

Water protectors stand between law enforcement and the Missouri River.

The Standing Rock Sioux Nation authorities were not included in the historical land surveying process, or contacted until the end of the planning process when the issuing of a permit seemed inevitable. The tribe’s legal team claims that the state of North Dakota violated their right to be consulted and the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by constructing the pipeline under the tribe’s only water source. The pipeline also violated the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which guarantees the Standing Rock Sioux Nation “ undisturbed use and occupation” of their land.

The protocol for federal agencies is to approve projects “government to government” therefore, there is no reason a tribal nation should have been left out of the majority of the planning process. The tribe also presented documents based on a recent land survey demonstrating evidence of sacred landmarks that could be easily missed by non-indigenous archaeologists.

Despite months of peaceful protest, recent responses by law enforcement to water protectors were been anything but. In addition to ongoing acts of police brutality and the use of attack dogs over the course of the past several months, water protectors in below freezing temperatures were assaulted with water cannons, tear gas, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets on Sunday November 20th by Morton County Police.

The approximate three hundred injuries consisted of internal bleeding, severe eye trauma, and hypothermia. A twenty one year old activist, Sophia Wilanski even had to amputate her arm after being hit with a police concussion grenade. The attacks were not widely reported by mainstream media, but they were captured by protesters through Facebook live feed.

Live feed from Standing Rock.

Ongoing police brutality which resulted in arrests and serious injuries are just a few reasons that many are saying this decision didn’t come soon enough. Despite the celebrations of indigenous communities and environmental activists around the world, Archambault commented that he hopes the United States presidential transition this January will respect the Army Corps of Engineer’s decision. Regardless of what’s to come for the Standing Rock Sioux and guardians of nature everywhere, Archambault’s last statement to the Army Corps of Engineers still rings true:

“The tribe’s resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever.”

To read more about it:

The Standing Rock Sioux Nation fights for Sacred Lands
The defense of Water and Mother Earth at Standing Rock.