After months of protesting by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota over the construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline designed to cover four states and carry 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day, the government has finally stepped in and all I can say is: it’s about time. Despite a ruling by Federal Judge James Boasberg to allow Dakota Access to continue building on the sacred land, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they would begin implementing measures to temporarily cease construction along part of the route; namely around the large Lake Oahe reservoir. Immediately after the ruling, the U.S. Army, DOJ and Department of Interior (DOI) announced they would work to protect the land by revoking any prior authorization granted to Dakota Access while they continue to review the case.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe sued to stop the construction and was granted a temporary restraining order while waiting for Boasberg’s final decision. The case, though lacking in media coverage until recently, has continued to gain momentum, with an estimated thousands joining in the protest to ensure the rights of Native Americans to decide what happens on their land remain preserved. Boasberg’s ruling read, “Aware of the indignities visited upon the tribe over the last centuries, the court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the court must nonetheless conclude that the tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.” Apparently, Boasberg doesn’t view centuries of indignities as enough to warrant an injunction.
The government has indicated they will ask Dakota Access to voluntarily halt the project, though the company has declined to comment on this most recent development. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made it clear that any construction bordering on or under Lake Oahe will not continue at this time. The DOJ, DOI and U.S Army released a joint statement regarding the situation stating, “This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe argues (and rightfully so) the pipeline would effectively damage and destroy sanctified sites, including burial grounds and prayer locations that have been honored by the tribe for hundreds of years. In particular, an area now submerged behind a dam on Lake Oahe. The tribe and its supporters refuse to give up and will continue to protest until a decision is made to permanently halt construction altogether. After it was announced the government was stepping in, the protest camp was still filled with supporters who have vowed to remain there as long as necessary until justice prevails.
One of the camp’s organizers, Carol Craig, said “It’s a pause. It’s not over. They won’t stop coming, not when there is money to be gotten. You better believe that.” Jeff Chavis, another protester who has been camped out for over a month, reacted to Basberg’s ruling saying, “If their mother were being raped in front of them, how would anybody feel about that? We’re not going to let this pipeline in. They’ve been told.” The sad truth of the matter is, those in power don’t consider how they would feel in that situation, because they likely never have or ever will have to face something so brutal. And that’s exactly what the desecration of this land for profit is: savage and brutal. Hasn’t the country done enough to make their point that what seems to matter most in this country is money, men and white privilege? I can’t see how that fact can be argued. Can you?