Sioux tribe finds hope in denial of pipeline

The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline will be halted indefinitely after a decision came after The Army Corps of Engineers to deny Energy Transfer Partners—a Texas based company—a permit to build a vital section of the pipeline.

“This isn’t over, but it is enormously good news. All tribal peoples have prayed from the beginning for a peaceful solution, and this puts us back on track,” said National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby.

The Dakota Access Pipeline was a proposed 1,172-mile conduit that would run from northwest North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline was designed to carry crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks—rapid production areas in North Dakota—to major refining networks in Central America.

What makes the pipeline so controversial is the fact that its course runs under the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, just a mile north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The river is the only source of water for the reservation’s 8,000 residents. A leak in the pipe could cause immediate harm to the people.

Along with the threat to their water supply, the tribe also challenged the pipeline’s location because it crosses sacred territory that was taken from the Standing Rock Sioux through a series of treaties.

Dean DePountis, the tribe’s attorney, mentioned how building this pipeline through the tribal land is like building it through one of the most sacred areas in our country.

“This pipeline is going through huge swaths of ancestral land. It would be like constructing a pipeline through Arlington Cemetery or under St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” DePountis said.

In July, the reservation sued the Army Corps of Engineers, stating that they had not consulted the tribe as required by law.

One of the major reasons why the pipeline has gotten so much attention in the public eye is because of the use of peaceful treatment of protestors by authorities. The first protest to halt the construction of the DAPL began on Aug. 22, 2016, when protesters blocked the construction sites in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

The protests were led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Soon, news spread about the Sioux’s stronghold on their land, and they started receiving help from supporters around the world. Thousands of people pitched tents and teepees to barricade the sacred land.

The Sioux tribe also received help from thousands of veterans after being issued an emergency evacuation notice by North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple.

“Winter conditions have the potential to endanger human life, especially when they are exposed to these conditions without proper shelter, dwellings or sanitation for prolonged periods of time and that the area is not zoned for dwellings suitable for living in winter conditions,” said the governor.

Two thousand veterans arrived in Standing Rock to form an unarmed militia to aid the determined demonstrators.

The veteran group, led by Wesley Clark Jr., also started a GoFundMe account to help raise money for the cause. The page has raised over $1 million to feed, clothe and shelter the massive gathering of protesters in the frigid North Dakota winter conditions.

Standing Rock protesters described the veteran militia as a “human shield” between them and the police. Among the militia was David Hulse, 34, a retired U.S. Navy veteran who served in Iraq. He said in an ABC News interview that he decided to join them last minute and expressed his endeavor as “not a mission of war, but a mission of peace.”

Protest continued on Sioux territory for the many months, including a powerful protest on the anniversary of the Whitestone Massacre. On Dec. 26, 1862, more than 300 Standing Rock Sioux tribe members were slaughtered by the U.S. Army, later being titled the Whitestone Massacre.

Although the protests eventually proved successful, they came with a cost. Many protesters were injured throughout the duration of the demonstrations. Videos surfaced on the internet of protesters being pepper-sprayed, attacked by dogs and sprayed with high-power hoses.   

The decision to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been made for now, but many future decisions regarding the pipeline will land on the desk of President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump has not declared his stance on the matter yet, but many fear he may lead a resurrection of the construction of the massive oil duct. When Trump takes office in January, there are two main ways he could overturn the decision if he decides to do so.

The first way would be to act through the Army Corps of Engineers and ask them to re-examine their decision. Trump could also work out a plan with Congress to carve out protection for the pipeline, a strategy used by presidents in the past.

No matter what happens in the future, the efforts made by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters will not be forgotten. Their combined efforts made this one of the largest Native American protests in history, and it was done without violence.

Right now, there are protests going on in the U.S. wrought with violence and ill will. The way the members of the reservation protected their land and water peacefully is a great example for how protests should be conducted. It lays out a blueprint for future demonstrations.

After months of peaceful protest that brought in thousands of people from across the country, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and surrounding peoples can sleep well knowing their land has been preserved.