Standing Rock: Army Corps Denies Pipeline Route, but Standoff Continues

This past weekend saw a major win for the protesters at Standing Rock: The Army announced on December 4 that the Army Corps of Engineers will not grant a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to drill under the Missouri River.

"Although we have had a continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy in a statement released by the Army. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."

Earlier in the week, the Army Corps of Engineers had given the thousands of Native Americans and environmental activists at the camp a deadline for vacating; Darcy's announcement came just one day before that deadline. For months, tribal members and their supporters had protested the pipeline, saying they feared it would contaminate their primary water source and destroy sacred sites.

After 10,000 people showed up at the camp over Thanksgiving, hundreds of military veterans arrived there this past weekend to show their support. Campers were elated when the Army Corps statement was released, according to Drew Gentile, who came to Standing Rock from Massachusetts with plans to stay for the winter. A friend woke him with the news. "It was such an amazing way to wake up," Gentile says. "The moon was out while the sun was setting and people were so happy and joyous — shouting and celebrating the moment."

Nancy Rae Clark, of Herbal Gardens Wellness and a member of the Four Winds community in Denver, which has been supporting the Standing Rock Sioux, says she's grateful for the Army Corps decision. "I'm so thankful [to] the Standing Rock Council for providing so much information to the Army Corps' understanding. This is a comprehension we haven't seen before from the American side," she says.

She warns that the fight isn't over, however.

The police set up more barracks on December 5, Clark says, and the Governor of North Dakota has not rescinded his eviction notice for the campers, which also had a deadline of December 5. The tribal members and their supporters plan to stay put, but there's a new administration moving into the White House, she notes.

"Water needs to be protected because it's a basic human right, but it's an uphill battle with corporations that are interested in profits," she says. "Flint still doesn't have water. It takes a shift to look at ourselves and say that the cost of a human life is more important than the next dollar."

The Four Winds American Indian Council will host a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 7, to update the community on the standoff at Standing Rock. Find out more about the meeting here.
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.