• December 6, 2016

We recently reported on the shocking level of violence and intimidation used against the Native American community in North Dakota. Protesters from some 200 Native American nations have been objecting to the construction of a huge new oil pipeline which passes over the Missouri River less than a mile upstream from a “reservation” belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Tribal lands that contain relics have been disturbed with the destruction of graves and sacred sites while construction of the pipeline has been undertaken.

For months objectors have protested over their fears that the pipeline would contaminate their water source and continue to destroy sacred sites. Their fight has become a rallying cry for indigenous rights and climate change activists. Protesters have faced an army of local and state police working in cooperation with private security contractors. Alarming levels of violence has been used against the opponents of the pipeline, including the use of rubber bullets, attack dogs, tear gas, compression grenades and mace. However, the protests continued and last weekend hundreds of military veterans arrived at the camps in a show of support for the movement.

Now the United States Army Corps of Engineers has officially announced that it will withhold its approval for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to drill under the Missouri River. This is a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe after their long campaign against the pipeline. Assistant secretary for civil works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced the decision on Sunday, and said in a statement that: “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,” the statement went on to say: “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II released a statement in which he said that: “The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama administration for this historic decision.” On behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux he said: “We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need.”

The tribe’s decision to fight back against the powerful oil industry captured international attention even though it received little coverage from major news outlets.

While the present victory is very significant others have advised caution at this stage in that the decision could be appealed. However, overturning it would be subject to close scrutiny by a reviewing court and campaigners have vowed that they we will be watching the new administration closely. While this battle is won the war isn’t over. It is though a remarkable victory. Protesters have shown their determination since the time in April that members of the tribe established the first “spiritual camp” on the banks of the Missouri river. They were joined by members of hundreds of other indigenous tribes answering their call for help. It has resulted in the largest gathering of Native American tribes in more than a century. This has been described as the beginning of something extraordinary in the fight against the erosion of indigenous sovereignty rights.”

We highlighted the struggle recently and drew parallels with the unsuccessful Shell to Sea campaign in Mayo:


Submitted by Alastair Kneale on December 5, 2016

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