Victory for Dakota pipeline protesters, but for how long?

Published 9:40 AM EST, Mon December 5, 2016

Story highlights

Simon Moya-Smith: Army Corps announcement buoyed Native Americans and allies who have protested at Standing Rock for months

What's not clear is whether the victory will survive the age of Trump, he writes

Editor’s Note: Simon Moya-Smith is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and culture editor at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter @Simonmoyasmith. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

I was standing in mud and ice a couple hundred yards from a police barricade of razor wires and concrete freeway barriers, eyeing a procession of military veterans flooding into the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota, when word leaked that the black snake had suffered a serious blow to the skull.

Simon Moya-Smith
Courtesy Simon Moya-Smith
Simon Moya-Smith

The Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it will not grant an easement allowing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to cut through Lake Oahe until a full environmental impact report is completed.

“The Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property,” the corps wrote in a press release.

Finally, I thought. A direct hit on this rotten, poisonous pipeline.

Once I heard of the Army’s statement, I hurried down the muddy entryway and headed to the main fire where hundreds had quickly gathered awaiting confirmation of the news. By 4 p.m., the Corps’ decision was still just a rumor. There’s hardly any cell phone service at camp, so people relied heavily on word of mouth.

“Is it true?” one man said.

“I don’t know,” another replied.

Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, suddenly appeared from the back of the crowd, wearing his trademark hat and a small grin.

Archambault made his way near the drum, grabbed a mic, and confirmed that, indeed, the black snake had been placed in a precarious position. Construction has stopped.

“Today is a moment in time we’ll all remember,” Archambault said to a crowd of hundreds. “We prayed about this. Prayer and peace is what got us here.”

And he’s right.

For months, unarmed Native Americans and allies gripping eagle feathers and sage have demonstrated against the construction of the pipeline that would threaten the Missouri River, the main water source for the Lakota people as well as 17 million others who live along the river.

These water protectors have put themselves at great bodily and emotional risk.

To date, they have been subjected to vicious dogs and rubber bullets and tear gas and water cannons in freezing temperatures. They’ve been thrown into dog kennels and strip-searched by police.

But all that is over – at least for the moment.

Our elder, Tom Goldtooth, said this is “check, not checkmate.”

Come January 20, we’ll have a new, pro-pipelines president. Donald Trump invested in the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline at one point and even talks about resurrecting the since-killed Keystone XL pipeline.

So, yeah, this battle isn’t over by a long shot.

More pipelines threaten our mother earth.

We live in a country that has a suicidal addiction to oil and gas. We know more pipelines are slated for construction all over this country. We know pipes leak and pollute clean water. We also know treaties between Native Americans and the US are constantly at risk.

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So, no, this isn’t the last round.

Still, after 524 years of aggressive oppression, as Native Americans we will take the victories that come our way.

In the meantime, we prepare for the incoming pro-pipelines president. His oil and gas agenda would leave Native Americans high dry, or at least knee-deep in tar sands puddles of sick water. And you’ll be in it, too.

Water is life, folks. Native Americans are resilient, and nonviolent action and prayer stopped the pipeline.

For now.

Here comes Trump.