The decision to halt construction comes just before President-elect Donald Trump is set to take office. And he could decide to move forward with it. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP, N.D. — Battered by swirling snow and sinking temperatures, protesters in this massive encampment appeared ready Monday to continue their fight against the Dakota Access pipeline, even as they celebrated the recent federal decision halting the project.
“… As water protectors, we have a responsibility to being stewards of the water,” John Bigelow, a Standing Rock Sioux member and a spokesperson for the camp-run media service, told reporters and campers Monday afternoon. “Therefore, we declare here today, we are not going anywhere.”
Earlier Monday, a steady stream of food, building supplies and newcomers trickled into the camp, one day after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would not grant Dakota Access an easement to cross the Missouri River. Without it, the project cannot be completed
The Corps suggested rerouting the line and said a deeper environmental impact study is warranted. Many Native Americans who have fought the 1,172-mile pipeline for months remain wary that it will ultimately be defeated.
They fear that the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump is poised to reverse the Obama administration’s decision.
The pipeline company on Sunday affirmed its commitment to finishing the project along its current route and called the administration’s decision “purely political.”
The issue is further complicated by a pending federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C., and a combined lawsuit in Iowa from landowners angry over the company’s use of eminent domain to acquire pipeline easements.
The pipeline is mostly completed in Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and North Dakota. The Missouri River crossing in North Dakota is the only portion of the pipeline still lacking the necessary authorization for construction.
There were some mixed signals Monday from protest leaders on what the Corps announcement means for the encampment, a makeshift city of tipis, huts and tents housing thousands along North Dakota’s snow-covered hills.
Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman David Archambault II told Reuters Monday that non-Sioux protesters could leave the camp, because no action was likely until Trump takes office in January.
“Nothing will happen this winter,” Archambault said. “The current administration did the right thing, and we need to educate the incoming administration and help them understand the right decision was made.”
But Bigelow said camp leaders will not be satisfied until Dakota Access has removed its heavy machinery and security forces from the pipeline construction area. And they will not take the company’s word for it.
“Until we can personally go up to the drill pad and see that they have ceased drilling and have left,” he said, “this is not over.”
The Dakota Access pipeline is set to cross the Missouri River about one-half of a mile away from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Tribal leaders worry that a pipeline breach there could threaten their drinking water, as well as that of millions downstream.
The Standing Rock Sioux and other Sioux tribes started the occupation in the spring of Corps land that itself is in dispute because a U.S. treaty recognized it as Sioux territory.
The encampment site has birthed a spiritual awakening among many Native Americans becoming the largest gathering of native people in modern history, bringing together hundreds of tribes.
Tribal members have been joined by people from across the country who wanted to be part of the movement to stop oil infrastructure development and protect indigenous rights.
What started as a political occupation is now a firmly rooted community. And many aren’t ready to leave all that behind.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it will not allow the easement necessary for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built near reservation lands. Newslook
“People have been here for so long and seem to be so dedicated,” said Skylar Funk, a 28-year-old musician from Los Angeles. “I can’t imagine people packing up any time soon.”
Bigelow said this week’s “small victory” is just one battle in a larger movement against energy companies that value profit above all else.
Dakota Access did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. But the company’s spokeswoman has previously argued that the pipeline will transport crude oil in a cheaper and safer manner than is now possible. She described it as a “great American infrastructure story.”
As blizzard conditions set in Monday, Funk and others continued building wood framing for winterized shelters at the camp, which is home to an array of services: kitchens, portable toilets, medic tents, a volunteer security force, a school and tents overflowing with donated supplies of tents, blankets and clothes.
During the warm months, many camped in small tents. But the place is now home to a slew of reinforced structures.
Most tipis, tents and huts have wood stoves or propane heaters. Camp members will need every bit of warmth they can get.
Highs are expected to remain in the single digits here this week, with sub-zero temperatures expected by Thursday, the National Weather Service reports.
Dawne of a New Day DuShane, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton tribe who lives in Oklahoma, said she plans to stay at the camp for at least a few more weeks to be in ceremony and give thanks.
“Leaving now would be like, ‘Alright, we just used you, God, see ya,'” she said. “So I foresee this being a hot spot for spiritual people.”
DuShane, 39, placed her belongings in storage to travel here. At Monday’s daily water ceremony, she bowed her head as she grasped an eagle’s feather and smudged burning cedar and sage. She said the prophecies of many tribes and faiths have foretold of a time like this.
“Aside from everything else, this fulfills prophecy,” she said. “Every prophecy that I know of — even Biblical prophecy — this is in fulfillment of that, that all nations would come together.”
Funk said a volunteer building crew, which works out of a handmade construction shed on site, will continue building homes and shelters as long as people continue showing up.
“Just being here is a protest,” he said. “Just surviving the winter here is a statement that we are here.”
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The US Army Corps of Engineers told the company building a North Dakota oil pipeline that it cannot extend the project beneath a reservoir. Protesters claimed a victory, while the company building the project called the decision political. (Dec. 5) AP