Scores of bundled-up protesters cheered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for refusing to grant an easement request for the Dakota Access Pipeline on Sunday afternoon.
A crowd gathered near the Sacred Fire cried out in tears and whoops of celebration, chanting “water is life” in Lakota Sioux after learning construction on the $3.8 billion project would pause for an environmental review. The 1,172-mile-long pipeline spanning four states has been the subject of raucous, and at times bloody, protests for months at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which straddles the border of North and South Dakota.
Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said she based her decision on a need to explore alternate routes for the Energy Transfer Partners pipeline crossing under the Missouri reservoir.
“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said in a statement.
Despite the revelry, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault and Hawaii lawmaker Tulsi Gibbard warned that the battle for the Dakota Access Pipeline — and Native American rights — are not over.
Tribal leaders urged demonstrators to defy Monday’s deadline to vacate.
“The whole world is watching,” said Standing Rock Sioux member Miles Allard. “I’m telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over.”
“Divergent” actress Shailene Woodley was among the revelers.
“We gotta be bigger than a pipeline,” Woodley said. “This is just the beginning because we’re all united now. I’m so honored and so privileged to stand with you, not only against the Dakota Access Pipeline but for all the generations to come.”
Despite the festivity, the Dallas-based pipeline company expressed its dismay at the Army Corps’ order, slamming it as politically motivated and a scheme to ignore the controversy until pro-pipeline President-elect Donald Trump assumes the White House in January.
It’s unclear if Trump would seek to reverse the decision.
“The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency,” the company said in a statement.
As night fell at the Oceti Sakowin encampment, fireworks shot into the air and campers settled in for a chilly night praying around campfires.
Members of the Veterans for Standing Rock braved the dark and hammered away at a barracks project that will lodge demonstrators for the long haul. In the morning, some of their ranks will take part in a prayer ceremony to apologize and ask for forgiveness for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans.
Despite the looming deadline, authorities say they won’t forcibly remove the protesters.
Tribal elders have asked about 250 veterans and the hundreds more expected at the encampment to honor their victory and not confront law enforcement.
Authorities moved a Backwater Bridge blockade in good faith, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said he had no “opinion” on the Army Corps’ decision and pledged to continue enforcing the law.
By Adam Schrader, Graham Rayman & Nicole Hensley. Source: NY Daily News