Over the past few months, protestors alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have faced tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and even baying dogs. But finally their efforts have resulted in change, as the Army Corps of Engineers have denied the permit that would allow the Dakota Access pipeline to pass through their ancestral lands.
“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,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement. “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 pipeline, which runs almost 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) from the oil fields in North Dakota to southern Illinois, was originally meant to pass north of the reservation but was rerouted further south over the risk it posed to the water sources for the town of Bismarck. Instead, the plan was for the pipeline to pass under the Missouri river and Lake Oahe, not far from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
The Sioux tribe opposed the new route because it would put their water supplies in jeopardy. Not only that, but the proposed route would also cut through sacred land and burial sites in regions of their unceded territory that is now owned by the US Army. In April this year, after their concerns went unheard, the tribe set up camp and made a call to other tribes to stand with them to block the construction of the pipeline.
What resulted was the largest gathering of Native American tribes in over a century, as hundreds of tribes and thousands of people joined the peaceful occupation. Faced with federal police and private security firms trying to quell their protests, the camps grew and grew. This weekend even saw thousands of military veterans arrive at the camp prepared to form a “human shield” around the protests and protect them from further assault.
As news broke that their efforts and steadfast resolve had been successful, celebrations broke out and fireworks were let off. While this has been hailed as a major victory against a multi-billion dollar industry by Native American and environmental groups alike, some have urged caution as the decision could be appealed.