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Victory for the Sioux: Standing Rock Protesters Rejoice as Feds Halt Construction on Dakota Access Pipeline

pponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline celebrating after learning Sunday’s news. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
pponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline celebrating after learning Sunday’s news. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

After months of intense protests, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its many supporters emerged victorious after federal authorities halted construction of the highly disputed Dakota Access Pipeline.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday, Dec. 4, that it would not approve the final easement that would allow the proposed pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

The Army said it based its decision on the need to further explore alternate routes for the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline crossing, leaving time for negotiation with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is located less than a mile from the proposed crossing.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” said Jo- Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

Since September, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with hundreds of civil rights, environmental and social justice activists, have intensely protested the construction of the $3.8-billion pipeline, which would carry nearly 570,000 barrels of crude oil from North Dakota to Iowa each day, USA Today reported. Tribal members oppose the oil pipeline out of fear that a rupture or spill could potentially contaminate their water supply and violate their treaty rights.

The battle to halt the construction began back in December 2014 soon after Energy Transfer Partners LP applied for permits to build a pipeline spanning four U.S. states, according to USA Today. On March 11, 2016, the Iowa Utilities Board unanimously voted to approve the pipeline, making it the last of the four states to OK the contentious project. This prompted a group of 200 Native Americans to take to horseback to protest the proposed pipeline’s location, which passed through the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, the news site reported.

Heated protests ensued for months as tribal members and their supporters fought to save the Native Americans’ land. The Standing Rock Sioux sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July and sought an emergency injunction on all construction on the pipeline, but to no avail. USA Today reported in September that guard dogs were set on protesters, while private security officials maced those who had marched to the construction site.

The protests reached a fever pitch in November when images of demonstrators being doused with powerful water hoses and/or shot with rubber bullets exploded across social media. One protester nearly lost her arm after being hit with a concussion grenade.

News of the Army Corps’ refusal to approve the easement for continued construction of the controversial pipeline brought feelings of jubilation and relief to protesters on the front lines fighting to preserve the sacred tribal land and its resources. Celebratory cheers could be heard throughout the protest camp as the good news spread.

“My hands go up to all the water protectors who have stood up to protect tribal treaty rights and to protect Mother Earth,” Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said in a statement Sunday. “Thank you for standing for Standing Rock.”

Though the news was cause to rejoice, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II warned the celebrants to remain cautious, as president-elect Donald Trump could easily reverse the decision in the coming months. According to NPR, Archambault asked that the incoming Trump administration “respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point.

“Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward,” the tribal leader said in a statement. “We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development or national-security concerns, but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples.”

Despite the threat of reversal, many took to social media this weekend to congratulate the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and protesters on their historic victory.

 

 

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