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Dakota pipeline protesters score victory

5 December 2016 10:48

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The US Army Corps of Engineers has canceled a permit for a controversial pipeline project crossing under a lake in the state of North Dakota, in what is being viewed as a major victory for Native Americans and climate activists who have staged months of protests.

The Dakota Access Pipeline had been planned to cross under the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, which are drinking water sources for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The lake is a reservoir formed by a dam on the river.

The 1,172-mile multi-billion-dollar project pipeline had been complete except for a segment that was set to run under Lake Oahe.

“The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record,” a statement from the US Army said.

Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, said, “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement was denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo by AFP) 

 

Celebrations, tears of joy, chanting and drumming rang out on Sunday after the US Army announcement at the main protest camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others have staged months of protests against the project which they say would be hazardous to the water supply of their reservation.

“People have said that this is a make it or a break it, and I guess we made it,” Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, announced to a cheering crowd of thousands of people.

However, some tribal leaders are worried that their victory may prove short-lived as the incoming Trump administration could reverse the decision.

Republican President-elect Donald Trump has stated that he supports the controversial project. He will take over from Democratic President Barack Obama on January 20.

Native American activists celebrate after the US Army announcement. (Photo by AFP) 

 

Grassroots activists, who have turned the protest site into a mini-city, also expressed caution about the scope and durability of their triumph.

“I’m really happy that I’m here to witness it and celebrate with a lot of my elders and the youth, but I think that we also need to keep in mind that we need to be ready to keep going,” CNN quoted an activist as saying.

“We are asking our supporters to keep up the pressure, because while President Obama has granted us a victory today, that victory isn’t guaranteed in the next administration,” Dallas Goldtooth, lead organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement on Sunday.

“More threats are likely in the year to come, and we cannot stop until this pipeline is completely and utterly defeated, and our water and climate are safe,” Goldtooth added.

The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Native American tribes have for months been seeking to stop the pipeline, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, because they say it will harm their drinking water and sacred sites.

Native American riders listen at a protest camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

 

Thousands of US military veterans also recently joined the protests. The veterans, organized under the banner “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” said on Saturday that they would put their bodies on the line to assist activists to stop the project.

“In the ultimate expression of alliance, we are there to put our bodies on the line, no matter the physical cost, in complete nonviolence,” wrote the group’s in its “operations order.”

“Our mission is to prevent progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline and draw national attention to the human rights warriors of the Sioux tribes,” the group added.

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