‘This ruling puts 17 million people who rely on the Missouri River at serious risk.’
“This fight is far from over.” —Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network
“The ruling allows Energy Transfer Partners—the Dallas-based company funding the project—to move forward with construction of the pipeline on all privately owned land up to the Missouri River,” NBC notes. Construction was temporarily halted in late August while the case was considered by the court.
The ruling was handed down the evening before Columbus Day, which celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas—an event that heralded centuries of genocide, many Indigenous people have argued. A growing movement seeks to instate the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day in its stead.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has vowed to continue its battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the timing of the ruling helped prompt widespread calls for solidarity and support.
“This ruling puts 17 million people who rely on the Missouri River at serious risk,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “And, already, the Dakota Access Pipeline has led to the desecration of our sacred sites when the company bulldozed over the burials of our Lakota and Dakota ancestors. This is not the end of this fight. We will continue to explore all lawful options to protect our people, our water, our land, and our sacred places.”
As Native News Online explains: “The 1,168-mile pipeline crosses through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s ancestral lands and within a half mile of the reservation boundary. Construction crews have already destroyed and desecrated confirmed sacred and historic sites, including burials and cultural artifacts. The original pipeline route crossed the Missouri River just north of Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. The route was later shifted downstream, to the tribe’s doorstep, out of concerns for the city’s drinking water supply.”
While the two-page ruling found that the tribe had not met the requirements for emergency injunctive relief, the court did note that the National Historic Preservation Act may require additional consultation. In fact, “the court’s ruling acknowledged that it was ‘not the final word,’ noting that the final decision lies with the Corps of Engineers,” as NBC reports. “While it said the tribe hadn’t met the strict requirements of the act to force a halt to construction, the three-judge panel said it “can only hope that the spirit” of the [National Historic Preservation] act ‘may yet prevail.'”
Indeed, a necessary easement is still awaiting Army Corps of Engineers approval, “a decision the Corps counsel predicts is likely weeks away […] where the tribe alleges historic sites are at risk,” the court’s ruling observes. It is this easement that the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies hope will be denied based on the National Historic Preservation Act.
“That note, Archambault said, is the court’s signal ‘to not proceed’ with the project,” NBC writes: “It seems they are coming to the same conclusion as the federal government in acknowledging there is something wrong with the approvals for the pipeline,” he said. “We see this as an encouraging sign.”
“We are troubled by the court’s decision,” added Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, “but as water protectors and land defenders, our resolve to stop this Bakken frack-oil pipeline will not be diminished. We will continue to support the tribe’s efforts to hold the U.S. federal government accountable for rubber stamping this dirty oil project. Meanwhile, our hearts and minds go to the pipeline fighters who will continue to use prayer and peaceful civil disobedience to disrupt business-as-usual and stop this black snake from being completed. This fight is far from over.”
The Obama administration had previously requested that Energy Transfer Partners voluntarily halt construction so that the tribe’s concerns could be addressed, but the company, undeterred, has refused to stop building the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the growing protest camp of Indigenous water protectors and allies from around the world continues to fight against the pipeline and peacefully occupy construction sites—despite riot police being deployed against them—in an effort to put a stop to the project.