The Department of the Army declared on Sunday that they will deny a grant of easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. This proves to be a victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who have been protesting the building of the pipeline since the tribe sued the Army Corps of Engineers, a branch of the Department, in late July of this year.
About 3,000 protesters moved into the Standing Rock camp in July to begin protesting until action was taken. Fast forward to October, protesters were facing a militarized police response. North Dakota law enforcement have reportedly been using rubber bullets, teargas and water cannons to subdue the protesters.
Sofia Wilansky, a protester from New York, nearly lost an arm after being hit with a concussion grenade, according to Fusion.On the same night, reportedly 17 protesters were hospitalized. These numbers drew international attention and representatives from both Amnesty International and the United Nations were sent to North Dakota to investigate.
The protesters were given an ultimatum to either move out before December 5 or risk being arrested. Among the arrestees was Shailene Woodley who has previously spoken out against the building of the pipeline. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has called the protest a “riot,” using this as a means to continually arrest the protesters without cause, as reported by Charged Affairs. Celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo and Solange Knowles have lent their support and solidarity to the Sioux tribe.
The pipeline would have directly affected their people, threatening their primary water source. “Water is life,” protesters chant in the face of losing the most important element of surviving.
The section that Energy Transfer Partners would like to build their line on is also close to the tribe’s sacred burial sites. Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based builders of the pipeline have suggested that the tribe would, in fact, reap economic benefits as reported by the New York Times.
However, evidence pointing towards this claim being true is yet to be provided. The company also reassured that they will take the utmost precaution to avoid any leaks, but even the smallest spill can contaminate large water supplies, as reported by Time.
The decision to deny is based on the need to “explore alternate roots,” says Department of the Army’s assistant secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcys, in a statement on Sunday. In November President Obama suggested the Army Corps were considering an alternative route, but it wasn’t until Sunday that the decision was finalized.
However, Energy Transfer Partners have expressed their unwillingness to reroute the project.
Protesters are rejoicing in the Army Corps decision, calling it a “victory” on Twitter and Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, expressed his gratitude as well. But while the pipeline is to be rerouted, it is still being built–the question remains as to where.
There has been a long history of distrust between Native American tribes and the Federal government. After all, the violation of Native American treaties is not new, but there is hope that history will not repeat itself.