The years-long resistance of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to prevent a pipeline on their sacred lands has prevailed. On Monday, a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to be shut down. All oil must be removed from the pipeline by August 5 and its flow stopped until a thorough environmental impact assessment is completed.
Chairman Mike Faith: “Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe & the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline. This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.” #NoDAPL #MniWiconi #HonorTheTreaties pic.twitter.com/NiBDNmP10W— indianz.com (@indianz) July 6, 2020
“You ever have a dream, a dream that comes true? That is what it is,” LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, an elder of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and founder of Sacred Stone Camp, told Democracy Now!
Water protectors have been protesting what they call “the black snake” for the better part of four years—fighting it both in the courts as well as in nonviolent camps that brought tens of thousands of protestors from around the country. The Standing Rock argue that the permitting process didn’t properly consult them or sufficiently consider the real risks to Lake Oahe—their primary drinking water supply.
Despite these ongoing efforts, the 1,172-mile-long pipeline has been transporting petroleum from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota since 2017. Now that flow will be stopped for the foreseeable future. It could easily take years to complete the environmental review of the pipeline and, if approved, reissue permits.
In U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg’s order, he wrote, “The Court does not reach its decision with blithe disregard for the lives it will affect. Yet, given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease.”
This victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe represents hope for Indigenous and environmental movements around the world. At a time when the economy has been upended, it may also represent an opportunity to reimagine the future of energy in this country.
“I see a very clear message to the fossil fuel industry that trying to shove through permits against the will of the nations that are impacted is just not going to work any longer,” Tara Houska, Ojibwe lawyer and founder of the Giniw Collective, told Democracy Now!.
Breanna Draxler is a senior editor at YES!, where she leads coverage of climate and environmental justice, and Native rights. She has nearly a decade of experience editing, reporting, and writing for national magazines including National Geographic online and Grist, among others. She collaborated on a climate action guide for Audubon Magazine that won a National Magazine Award in 2020. She recently served as a board member for the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Northwest Science Writers Association. She has a master’s degree in environmental journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder. Breanna is based out of the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, but has worked in newsrooms on both coasts and in between. She previously held staff positions at bioGraphic, Popular Science, and Discover Magazine.