APTN National News
OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP—There was jubilation in the snow at the Oceti Sakowin Camp after it was announced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided not to grant an easement allowing a multi-state pipeline to cross beneath Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River from where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe draws its drinking water.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman David Archambault praised the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama.
“We are deeply appreciative that the Obama administration took the time and effort to genuinely consider the broad spectrum of tribal concerns,” said Archambault, in a statement. “In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful.”
The news was met with whooping, cheering and dancing at the snow-blanketed Oceti Sakowin Camp.
“At the moment (of the announcement) we had thousands of people around Oceti Sakowin praying and signing,” said Thomas Lopez, of the International Indigenous Youth Council, in a statement posted on Facebook.
However, Lopez said he believed the victory would only last until Jan. 20 when Donald Trump takes over the White House.
“We will then have another fight to fight,” he said.
The U.S. Army Corps said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon the easement would not be granted. Instead the Corps said there would be a further environmental study and the exploration of alternate routes to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“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 Corps’ assistant secretary for civil works, in a statement. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
The news came as authorities in North Dakota said police would be deescalating their posture from a barricade across the Backwater Bridge which sits a few hundred metres from Oceti Sakowin Camp, the nerve-centre of the anti-pipeline opposition. The barricade was the scene of aggressive police action earlier this month when demonstrators, known as water protectors, were bombarded with a water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Video from Morton County Sheriff’s Department showing law enforcement moving back off Backwater Bridge
This followed a previous police operation in late October that saw authorities push water protectors down Hwy 1806 and across the Backwater Bridge. The operation was meant to blunt attempts by water protectors to slow down construction of the pipeline through rolling blockades.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has steadfastly opposed the pipeline because it would cross beneath Lake Oahe, threatening the reservation’s water supply. The tribe’s efforts to stop the pipeline sparked a continent-wide movement against the project and tens of thousands of people travelled to the Oceti Sakowin Camp to join the ranks of the resistance.
“Thank you President Obama, thank you Army Corps of Engineers, thank you, thank you,” said actor Mark Ruffalo. “Now let’s move forward, let’s make the United States a leader in renewable energy. Let’s use the nations, let’s use the Indigenous people to be our leaders to show us how we live forward today with sustainability and in relationship to the earth in a way that doesn’t harm our mother.”
-more to come