Standing Rock water protectors celebrate, prepare for long winter

Share Button

The original sacred fire at the Oceti Sakowin resistance camp was extinguished earlier this month. But for many, the fight is far from over. While people around the world rejoiced on December 4 when the Obama administration suspended the easement for Energy Transfer Partners to drill under Standing Rock’s Lake Oahe, hundreds of water protectors continued to dig in and prepare themselves for a harsh winter at the North Dakota protest site.

With a Trump presidency on the horizon, an Energy Transfer Partner’s board member has already appointed to his cabinet. And as the company insists it will proceed with construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Native and non-Native activists feel that they’ve won the battle but not the war.

Dallas Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, took to social media the day of the announcement to outline what exactly the decision means for the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people and their supporters.

“Today, the Obama Administration announced that it will not grant the final easement for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross the Missouri River. They did not DENY the easement, they SUSPENDED a decision on the easement until an Environmental Impact Statement is conducted on ALTERNATIVE river crossings,” he explained.

“Now it’s a waiting game to see the final nails in the coffin: will DAPL investors continue to flee? Will oil suppliers drop their contracts? Will President-elect Trump take any action on the pipeline should the first two options not happen? Good questions – but that doesn’t stop the victory songs tonight,” Goldtooth exclaimed. “We celebrate… and remain vigilant for the fight to come.”


The presence of hundreds of US armed forces veterans bolstered resistance to the pipeline and softened the stance of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Shortly after travelling to the camp to show their support, the veterans took to the frontlines of construction, created a human wall between police and water protectors and told authorities that the excessive use of force during prior altercations was unacceptable.

The suspension of the DAPL’s final easement came just a day before a previous ultimatum issued by the Engineer Corps, which said that the protest camp needed to be evacuated by December 5, one day after the arrival of the veterans.

Joseph Harry Benedict, who befriended the Nation during a visit to Standing Rock, is still on site and says he has noticed a change in focus.

“The energy of the camp is shifting quickly in some ways,” he said. “As the people adjust to the weather some have left and there have been tensions as adjustments are made for winterization.

There has been some confusion with the closing of the sacred fire that began this journey, yet the clarification came from the Elders. They had looked to the spirits and it was said their prayers have been answered, which is why it was closed.”

The fire of resistance still burns bright, however. “We keep working at things every day,” said Benedict. “There are people working on constructing better shelter for the people. This camp is shifting immensely in my eyes… and the energy is finding its way. A lot of things going in motion.”

This month’s news in Standing Rock wasn’t all good. A day after the announcement of the suspended easement came reports of a pipeline leak just 150 miles northwest of the Oceti Sakowin camp.

Electronic monitoring equipment failed to detect a rupture in the Belle Fourche pipeline owned by Wyoming-based True Cos and over 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked into the Ash Coulee Creek. While 37,000 gallons of oil was recovered, it reinforces the dangers posed to the Sioux water supply should the Dakota Access Pipeline be allowed to pass through the Cannonball River.

Share Button

Comments are closed.