The Standing Rock Sioux, who have been protesting an oil pipeline in North Dakota, finally received the ruling they had been waiting for from the court on Friday. Unfortunately, it was not the decision they had hoped for and the judge had ruled in favor of the pipeline rather than the Native Americans.
But only moments after the ruling was announced, the Obama Administration stepped in and halted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline — effective immediately.
A joint statement was released by the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior on Friday afternoon. The statement said that although they “appreciate the District Court’s opinion,” construction on the pipeline will be stopped as a direct result of the “important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations.”
The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.
However, the statement did not stop there and continued, stating that this case has “highlighted the need for a serious discussion.” To foster this long overdue dialogue, “this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations.”
“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects. Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals,” the statement read.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe applauded President Obama’s actions on Facebook.
The move to halt construction on the pipeline is a huge win for the tribe, who has insisted that not only would it pose a substantial risk of poisoning the water supply, but would also destroy sacred sites that lie directly in its path, including burial sites. The Standing Rock Sioux began their protest in April and in recent months other tribes and activists have joined the cause, with the number of “Water Protectors” skyrocketing into the thousands.
Last weekend things turned violent when Dakota Access retaliated by desecrating tribal burial grounds with bulldozers. A private security company brought in by the pipeline attacked peaceful protesters with vicious dogs, resulting in at least three people being brutally bitten, including a pregnant woman and a young child.
On Thursday, North Dakota’s Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced he was activating the National Guard, not to protect the protesters from the violence that had been inflicted on them just days earlier, but to protect the pipeline.
President Obama’s actions on Friday will hopefully put an end to at least some of the madness. For once, we have decided not to violate the treaties made with the Native Americans. Thanks, Obama!
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images