Yesterday, the Department of the Army announced its decision withholding the easement required to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under the Missouri River.
The Obama administration’s decision denying the easement to build the pipeline across sacred waters was not only a historic one, it was the right one. The decision shows that meaningful tribal consultation is necessary on any project that affects the lands and waters that make up who Native people are as individuals and as sovereign nations.
But the existential threat we as Native people face has not subsided. If anything, that threat has accelerated with today’s decision. Whenever Native people have historically “won,” colonial and other forces have become more determined to defeat and extinguish us.
Immediately emboldened by this decision, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics released a statement threatening Native people and defying the federal government by stating they are “fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this administration has done today changes that in any way.”
It is quite obvious that Kelcey Warren, Energy Transfer Partners, and Sunoco Logistics have no fear of legal nor political consequences, especially in the last days of the Obama administration. These corporations have been aided and abetted by North Dakota and Morton County officials who have shown no respect for the rule of law (i.e., the constitutional right of Native peoples to protection). We shall see if concrete barriers, water cannons, and rubber bullets await those who are determined to complete this project. If not, perhaps it confirms that a corporation that considers itself above the rule of law is indeed calling the shots and has been in charge all along.
If, as some say, the rule of law in our country is dead, then we as Native Peoples will find refuge under the tenets of Natural law. We will continue to draw upon the ways that have sustained us for millennia. It is those ways that have brought victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at this time.
The Yakama Nation has stood side-by-side with our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock and will continue to do so. We will continue the fight to protect our rights and resources so that our people can continue to thrive in the future.
After yesterday’s decision, I am confident that we will have no choice but to fight even harder.