By Rich Winter
Amidst freezing temperatures, snow covered ground and among thousands of protestors, including U.S. Veterans from across the United States, tears of joy and whoops of celebration, chanting and drumming rattled the North Dakota landscape when it was announced the Army Corp. of Engineers would be looking for an alternate route and undergoing further environmental studies before any permanent decision about the Dakota Access pipeline would be made.
Standing Rock Sioux, Tribal President, Dave Archambault, called the stoppage of the pipeline a monumental day for his people.
“This is an historic moment,” Archambault said in a prepared statement. “For centuries, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and tribes across the country, have faced fundamental injustice at the hands of the federal government - which time and again took our lands and tried to destroy our way of life. Our Treaties and our human rights were ignored, our interests in protecting lands and waters were considered unimportant, and our voices were not heard.”
Archambault said the action by the Army Corps of Engineers strongly vindicates what the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been saying all along - That they had a responsibility to protect our waters for future generations.
The decision to not grant the easement for the pipeline to go under Lake Oahe, drew immediate condemnation from North Dakota politicians, and the energy partners behind the pipeline.
Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, the corporations behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, said in a statement Sunday night they “fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe.”
The company suggested Sunday’s decision doesn’t change past court decisions.
“Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way,” the company said in a statement.
North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican, said last week after a meeting with the transition team that Trump supported completing the 1,172-mile long proposed pipeline, that would transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day across four states. A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday’s decision.
House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted his criticism, calling the intervention “big-government decision-making at its worst. I look forward to putting this anti-energy presidency behind us.”
It was that kind of talk that had Rosebud Sioux Tribe President, Willie Kindle cautiously optimistic Monday morning in council chambers.
“We’re pretty happy with what the Corp. decided to do,” Kindle said. “We met with them two weeks ago up in Rapid City, we pleaded our case to them as to why they shouldn’t issue that permit. Apparently they listened, however, I don’t want to be too optimistic about it because when they change administration’s, this could all change again.”
Protesting in prayer:
Since the protests began earlier this year, messages from both native and non-native spiritual leaders has always been to protest in a peaceful manner. Mother Lauren Stanley, an Episcopal priest on the Rosebud, made several trips to North Dakota. This past weekend, Stanley was asked to be a trauma chaplain with worries of Veterans in attendance being affected by PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) because of the stress of the situation and the sheer enormity of thousands of people all gathered together in peaceful protest.
“I truly believe that the Standing Rock tribe’s commitment to prayer and peacefulness made all the difference in defeating the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Stanley said. “From Chief Arvol Looking Horse and Chairman Dave Archambault and leaders like LaDonna Allard and Phyllis Young and so many others, the message has been the same: This stand against the pipeline has been based in prayer and peace. And as a woman of prayer myself, I can say that those prayers, and that commitment to peace, made this victory possible.”
Stanley was called to be one of 32 experienced trauma chaplains to work with the thousands of veterans who came to the Standing Rock this past weekend for the veterans’ action. “To be here on the very day that the Army Corps decided definitely that there would be no permit is incredible. Like so many here, I cried at the news.”
Danny Gangone, who works with the Rosebud Episcopal Mission, has been to the Standing Rock numerous times, bringing supplies and working in the Sacred Stone camp. He was helping put up a tent for chaplains when he heard the call to the sacred fire.
“I was humbled by the joy I saw in our people,” he said. “I was and am proud of our people. You could feel the emotional response from everyone in the camps when we all got the news.”
Archambault echoed feelings of prayer being a major contributor that led to Sunday’s decision.
“With peace and prayer, indigenous people from hundreds of Tribes said: our future is too important. We can no longer be ignored. The goal was to protect these sacred waters, and to do so in the name of our children,” Archambault said. “And, with yesterday’s decision, it is clear that our voices have at long last been heard.”
While Sunday’s decision from the Government does not guarantee the pipeline won’t eventually find it’s way under Lake Oahe, Archambault, and many other’s concerned about possible destruction to the environment celebrated what they said is a monumental victory.
“While today is a great day, there is still much that needs to be done to protect Tribal rights and ensure justice for indigenous people everywhere,” Archambault said. “Using peace and prayer as our guideposts, and with the teachings of our elders and with inspiration from our youth, I believe there is much we can accomplish for the future.”