The routes of resistance often pass through unexpected locations, so perhaps we should not be suprised that the best news of the post-election moment comes from North Dakota.
On Sunday afternoon, as thousands of activists joined members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Sunday, tensions were high along the proposed route of the Dakota Access pipeline. Federal, state, and local officials were talking about evacuating the encampment where Native Americans and environmental campaigners from around the world had gathered to oppose a pipeline project that threatened sacred lands and safe drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux and millions of people living downriver from where the project’s developers proposed to tunnel the pipeline under the Missouri River.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and veterans from across the United States were arriving to join the stand against the pipeline, promising to defend the Standing Rock Sioux. There was talk of forming a “human shield” to prevent more arrests and the forced removal of self-declared “water protectors.”
Then came the announcement from the US Army Corps of Engineers that it would not grant an easement for the critical crossing that contractors had planned to complete the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline project. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy explained that her decision was based on the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline, while US Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell promised “an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts” and “underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”
National environmental groups hailed what was described as an “admission that Native nations were not meaningfully consulted on a project with such high risks to their sovereign lands and drinking water.” “For too long, Native voices have been left out of decision-making processes that affect their communities, cultural resources and beliefs and the natural environment,” said Wilderness Society president Jamie Williams. “Under the Obama Administration’s leadership, the United States has begun the long process ahead to correct these historic wrongs.