A request from the tribes challenging President Trump’s executive order has been denied
Water protectors remain committed to fighting DAPL
Drilling continues under Lake Oahe
The DAPL Last Stand could be the only thing left to stop the pipeline
A federal judge has rejected a request from the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes to halt drilling under the Missouri River’s Lake Oahe reservoir — the final phase of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes challenged the president’s decision last week to speed approvals for the last stretch of the $3.7 [billion] pipeline under the Missouri river in North Dakota,” the Guardian reports. “But US district James Boasberg sided with the pipeline corporation at a Washington DC hearing on Monday afternoon and ruled to allow continued construction.”
Considering the tribes and government have been volleying a succession of shots in federal court for months — and a recent executive order from President Donald Trump to complete both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines — the formality of the rejection hardly dampened the spirits of water protectors still encamped in Standing Rock.
Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers eventually asserted a full environmental impact study would be performed in the interest of appeasing the tribe’s concerns about possible contamination of its water supply, Trump’s orders and subsequent approval of an easement reversed that faint glimmer of hope.
“We are contending that the waters of Lake Oahe are sacred to Cheyenne River and all of its members, and that the very presence of a pipeline, not only construction but possible oil flow through that pipeline, would obstruct the free exercise of our religious practices,” Matthew Vogel, legislative associate of the Cheyenne River Tribe, told the media on Monday before the hearing.
Monday’s federal denial of an injunction on religious grounds could be the official final nail in the coffin for completion of Dakota Access — except for Indigenous and non-Native water protectors, and U.S. military veteran allies who recently began to travel back to Standing Rock to act as human shields against violent police tactics in advance of possible clearing of the camps.
Filed by attorneys for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, part of the Great Sioux Nation, the request to end drilling claimed the same mantra adopted by pipeline opposition activists, who term themselves water protectors — Lake Oahe is considered sacred and at the heart of tribal rituals.
“The Lakota people believe that the pipeline correlates with a terrible Black Snake prophesied to come into the Lakota homeland and cause destruction,” filings cited by the Guardian state. “The Lakota believe that the very existence of the Black Snake under their sacred waters in Lake Oahe will unbalance and desecrate the water.”
Energy Transfer Partners has insisted DAPL’s route under Lake Oahe won’t pose any danger of contamination to the Standing Rock Sioux’ water supply — nor that of some 18 million people downstream.
But the fight to halt construction has meaning beyond the clinical toxicity of oil contamination to drinking water — many Native American and Indigenous peoples view no separation in forms of life. Water lives and breathes — and can be injured — as any other creature or entity, and therefore must be protected from harm.
Attorneys for the company responsible for construction of DAPL, Energy Transfer Partners — noting they respected tribal religious beliefs and traditions — nonetheless offered a callous summation of months of pipeline opposition:
“Cheyenne River is out of time to run this play.”
Strong ties between Trump and the oil and gas industry raised doubts pipeline opposition would be successful through means other than civil disobedience — Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warner contributed significantly to the new president’s campaign, for example.
Both federal and state officials have repeatedly discouraged more people from coming to Standing Rock to participate in pipeline opposition — first under the premise a bitter North Dakota winter would be difficult to those unaccustomed to prepare for, and later because much of the area where camps are located will be flooded in the spring thaw.
Water protectors dedicated to defeating Dakota Access, however, remain encamped at Standing Rock in what is now being termed the DAPL Last Stand.
As final as the judge’s rejection might seem, the #NoDAPL movement remains passionately committed to ending the threat of crude contamination of the Missouri River.
Image credit: Flickr/Fibonacci Blue.