While most of America is wrapped up in the ensuing controversy from the impending Donald Trump presidency, a fierce battle between the corporate construction entity Energy Transfer Partners and the Standing Rock Sioux Native Americans has been happening right under the country’s nose.
The demonstration began a few months back when it was revealed that the Dakota Access Pipeline, a planned 1,134-mile pipeline that would carry around 500,000 gallons of crude oil per day from the Dakotas to Illinois, would be rerouted through sacred land belonging to the Sioux tribe. Soon after, more protesters gathered in North Dakota (and on Facebook) to support the plight of the disenfranchised Sioux tribe, who were determined to protect their land as well as the country’s water supply.
After months of being attacked by police with non-lethal weapons in harsh winter conditions, optimism was waning for anti-DAPL demonstrators. But, just as the battle seemed all but lost, hundreds of veterans joined forces to descend on the frontline of the protest’s to protect the protesters. The incredibly brave and selfless action of the “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock” organization seems to have had a major impact on the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
This past weekend, the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the construction of a key segment of the pipeline, causing Energy Transfer Partners to withdraw from the project. According to Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's assistant secretary for civil works, the Corps of Engineers have decided to heed the warning that the Sioux tribe has given about what the pipeline will do to their water supply. The Army Corps now intends to release an Environmental Impact Statement with “full public input and analysis” of the proposed project.
The united front of protesters were both shocked and ecstatic to hear that the easement has been denied, as cheers and Native whoops rang out from the camp for hours after the announcement. Still, many demonstrators and members of the Sioux tribe have remained cautiously optimistic, understanding that they had won the battle, but that the war is far from over.
"Our prayers have been answered," National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby said. "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."
While the Army Corps of Engineers and the Obama Administration have finally decided to stand up for the Native tribe, the fear that Donald Trump will try to force the completion of the pipeline once inaugurated remains a real threat. Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II spoke out to the President-Elect, expressing his hope that Trump would "respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point."
Though the future of DAPL still remains unclear with Trump poised to take the White House, this victory speaks volumes about the power of protests. Even outside of the North Dakota protest, the success of the demonstration proves that when people unite for a noble cause, anything can be accomplished regardless of the opponents deep pockets or political influence.