Near Cannon Ball, North Dakota (CNN)The sweet taste of victory has already begun to sour at the Oceti Sakowin Camp just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Over recent months, thousands of people have settled in this off-the-grid community, united in their mission to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from snaking through nearby treaty land and under the Missouri River that serves millions of people.
The mantra silkscreened on T-shirts, painted on signs and embroidered on hats drives home what matters here: Mni Wiconi — or Water is Life.
On Sunday, the US Army Corps of Engineers said it would seek alternative routes for the pipeline. The “water protectors” and their supporters sang, drummed and cheered in triumph.
But by Monday morning as a winter squall descended and temperatures dropped, so too did the enthusiasm here.
Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the $3.7 billion project, had pushed back. It blamed politics, specifically the Obama Administration, for the Army Corps statement, adding that it was in the corporation’s legal right to proceed as planned.
This latest twist is raising questions, stoking suspicions and, quite possibly, fueling rumors. Among those: The pipeline has already been completed.
Make no mistake, the Water Protectors plan to stay.
The Army Corps’ announcement delays the pipeline project, but does not mean a cancellation. The permit for drilling under the Missouri River was denied until a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed, which will happen after Trump takes office.
In response to the Army Corps’ announcement, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Sunoco Logistics Partners (SXL) issued a statement that reads in part:
In spite of consistently stating at every turn that the permit for the crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe granted in July 2016, comported with all legal requirements, including the use of an environmental assessment, rather than an environmental impact statement, the Army Corps now seeks to engage in additional review and analysis of alternative locations for the pipeline.
The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.
As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.
In other words, the pipeline companies intend to ignore the Obama Administration’s directive. The Water Protectors expect that construction will continue without the permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Responding to the ETP/SXL statement, the Camp of the Sacred Stones fired back with this declaration: “While this is clearly a victory, the battle is not ‘over’.”
… Eryn Wise of the International Indigenous Youth Council says, “We’ve been fighting this fight our whole lives and now there is no doubt in our minds that our generation can change the future. We know that the next presidency stands to jeopardize our work but we are by no means backing down. We will continue protecting everywhere we go and we will continue to stand for all our relations. We say Lila wopila to everyone who has supported the resurgence of indigenous nations. This is just the beginning” …
HERE ARE THE 10 QUESTIONS WE NEED TO BE ASKING IN THE DAYS AND WEEKS AHEAD:
- Will the Army Corps actually conduct an Environmental Impact Statement? If so, on what portion of the project — just the river crossing, or the whole pipeline?
- What issues will the EIS take into account? (for example, will it include an analysis of spill risk? how about sacred sites? will it reassess the economic need for the pipeline now that the bakken is busting?)
- Which alternative routes will be considered? Will a “no-build” option also be considered?
- How long will the EIS take?
- What input will the tribe have? What will the public participation process look like?
- In what way(s) was the original Environmental Assessment prepared by the Army Corps deemed inadequate?
- What was the result of the tribal consultation process exploring possible changes to the regulatory process for pipelines in general? have any changes been proposed?
- How easily will these decisions be reversed by a Trump administration?
- How will these decisions be affected by the outcomes of DAPL’s lawsuit against the Army Corps, scheduled to be heard on Friday?
- Is the US government prepared to use force to stop the company from drilling under the river without a permit, if necessary?
Today during a North Dakota blizzard in a show of solidarity in response to the companies’ obvious intentions to continue construction on the pipeline, thousands of Water Protectors and the Veterans marched to the Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806, where law enforcement and private security forces had set up a blockade and barricade. The bridge was also the scene of the November 20 assault on the Water Protectors’ peaceful prayer ceremony with water cannons, pepper spray and rubber bullets.
It is unclear at this point how much of the military equipment and vehicles used by law enforcement and private security forces against the Water Protectors have been pulled back from the blockade or whether the blockade is still in force. The barricade made up of old tires, metal parts and other junks remains in place.
The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council issued a press release today which says in part:
The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council (SRM&HC) does not anticipate a massive exit of water protectors from the DAPL Resistance Camps at Standing Rock, as we do not believe that the fight for the water is over. We are committed to caring for the health and wellbeing of anyone in camp as long as they are in camp. We expect this to last for months, especially given the upcoming change in presidential administration.
We celebrate for a moment, but understand the history surrounding federal and state dealings with tribal nations and the promises made and broken to the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people.
We are here and ask you all to continue to support us for as long as camp remains. The weather is turning very cold with very low wind chills, and we intend to keep everyone safe and healthy through the winter.
The Water Protector Legal Collective, which is the National Lawyers Guild legal support team for the Water Protectors resistance movement to DAPL, maintains a 24/7 presence on-site at the Oceti Sakowin camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. In a press release yesterday, WPLC lawyer Angela Bibens (Santee Dakota) stated:
“In light of today’s decision by the Obama Administration, the Water Protector Legal Collective calls on the State of North Dakota to immediately drop criminal charges against the more than 550 Water Protectors who have been arrested related to their peaceful and prayerful protest against DAPL these past nine months. The WPLC also calls on local law enforcement agencies to pull back from the Water Protectors’ camps and dismantle the road blockades and checkpoints they have instituted, and further demands that federal and state agencies conduct a full investigation into law enforcement abuses against Water Protectors which have included violations of their First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.”
Today Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued a public thank you in Standing Rock Could Not Come This Far Alone [excerpt]:
Standing Rock could not have come this far alone. Hundreds of tribes came together in a display of tribal unity not seen in hundreds of years. And many thousands of indigenous people from around the world have prayed with us and made us stronger. I am grateful to each of you. And, as we turn a page with yesterday’s decision, I look forward to working with many of you as you return to your home communities to protect your lands and waters, and the sovereignty of your tribes.
My thanks to all of our allies, here and around the world, each of whom contributed to this effort. I want to give a special mention to the veterans who have come to Standing Rock in recent days. I am sure that the strength of your message in support of Standing Rock, and the rights of the Water Protectors, had a powerful impact as the Army made its decision. I appreciate all you have done.
While today is a great day, there is still much that needs to be done to protect tribal rights and ensure justice for indigenous people everywhere. Using peace and prayer as our guideposts, and with the teachings of our elders and with inspiration from our youth, I believe there is much we can accomplish for the future.
A Native American leader asked thousands of protesters to return home after the federal government ruled against a controversial pipeline, despite the prospect of President-elect Donald Trump reversing the decision after he takes office …
… The tribe still wants to speak with Trump about the Dakota Access Pipeline to prevent him from approving the final phase of construction, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault told Reuters.
“The current administration did the right thing and we need to educate the incoming administration and help them understand the right decision was made,” he said.Trump’s transition team said on Monday it would review the decision to delay completion once he takes office Jan. 20.
“That’s something that we support construction of and we’ll review the full situation when we’re in the White House and make the appropriate determination at that time,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said at a transition team news briefing.
Archambault said nothing would happen over the winter before Trump takes power, so protesters should leave. Many had dug in for the harsh winter of the North Dakota plains, where a blizzard hit on Monday and 40 miles-per-hour (64 kmh) winds rattled tipis and tents.
“We’re thankful for everyone who joined this cause and stood with us,” he said. “The people who are supporting us … they can return home and enjoy this winter with their families. Same with law enforcement. I am asking them to go.”
It was unclear if protesters would heed Archambault’s call to leave the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota …