This story is part of a series about Standing Rock, North Dakota — the contested pipeline and the people resisting its construction. Nexus Media will be highlighting voices from the protests unfolding along the Missouri River.
On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not allow the Dakota Access pipeline to cross a span of the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. The Sioux have protested construction for months out of fears that a leak in the pipeline would contaminate the tribe’s sole source of water. The Army is potentially looking to reroute the project, which could delay construction for months.
Donald Trump, who has personal financial interest in the the pipeline, has said he supports the project. Once in office, he may attempt to permit construction along the original route. Energy Transfer Partners, the firm building the pipeline, has said it will continue construction along the current route, likely with an eye to Inauguration Day.
Protests against the Dakota Access pipeline drew supporters — so-called “water protectors” — from more than 100 tribes, joined by hundreds of environmentalists and, in recent weeks, veterans, who flocked to Standing Rock in a show of support.
“I took an oath to protect people, to serve my nation,” said Nakia Arrington, a marine veteran who served in Afghanistan. “I feel like this has been the first time that I have actually done what I said I was going to do. It’s a great opportunity to be here and support the protectors and to protect the protectors.”
Regardless of what happens after Trump takes office, protestors won a major victory. The pipeline will not be completed by January 1, 2017, the planned delivery date. After that date, firms that had committed to use the pipeline will have the option to terminate their contracts.
Over the last several months, demonstrators showed that a small group of advocates could earn national media attention, amassing the support of environmentalists and veterans to influence policy at the federal level.
Dave Archambault, the Standing Rock tribal chairman, celebrated the win and called for demonstrators to return home for the winter. “[Protestors] brought worldwide attention to this area and I am thankful for their support, and I am thankful for their efforts, but it’s time now,” Archambault told local radio station KFGO. “And everybody can just relax and go home.”
For Standing Rock’s water protectors, the fight is likely far from over. Winter will bring frigid weather and a reprieve from protests, but the incoming Administration could reignite the battle.