The author was recently at Standing Rock.
The Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the water protectors who have gathered in North Dakota from around the world have seen a victory in their struggle to stop the Dakota access pipeline.
The Army Corps of Engineers has denied Energy Transfer Partnership the right to drill under the Missouri River. The Army Corps of Engineers claim to have the authority to grant access to ETP, though this is disputed by The Standing Rock tribe.
In any event, this struggle which started in April, has gathered the support of hundreds of thousands of people around the world who now see the halting of the pipeline’s completion as a victory to be celebrated for people struggling everywhere to ensure their rights to clean water.
However as great of a victory as this is it should be viewed with cautious optimism. No one in Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone Camps entirely trust that the oil companies are going to comply with the order to not drill under the river. Kelcy Warren, the owner of ETP has previously stated that the Army Corps of Engineers decision is just a political one, and therefore ETP are willing to accept whatever fines that may be levied against them if they go ahead drill under the river to complete the pipeline. Banking on president-elect Trump’s stated commitment to complete the pipeline and to ensure that his investment is safe, the oil company is willing to complete this project at all costs.
For many months now the water protectors have been subjected to the most violent of abuses by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and the other agencies that have been involved. Protectors have been shot with rubber bullets, bean bags, concussion grenades and sprayed with water cannons in freezing cold temperatures. One young woman, Sofia Wilansky had her arm severely injured by a concussion grenade, while another young woman lost eyesight in one eye after being hit with a rubber bullet.
The brutality displayed by Morton County Sheriff’s Department, who are basically paid mercenaries for the oil company, is a result of the energy company’s increasing fear that the people will win out and stop this pipeline completely.
While continued vigilance is required, the Army Corps of Engineers denial of a permit to ETP is a great victory for the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, for Indigenous peoples’ rights in general and for all the allies that are there in the camp and around the world. The people standing together in unity can and will win.