Yesterday we were notified that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not grant the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, they will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement regarding alternative routes for the pipeline. This action strongly vindicates what the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been saying all along—that we all have a responsibility to protect our waters for future generations.
This is an historic moment. For centuries, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and tribes across the country, have faced fundamental injustice at the hands of the federal government—which time and again took our lands and tried to destroy our way of life. Our treaties and our human rights were ignored, our interests in protecting lands and waters were considered unimportant, and our voices were not heard.
It was this shared history that led tribes to come together as never before to seek the protection of our waters against the threat of the Dakota Access Pipeline. With peace and prayer, indigenous people from hundreds of tribes said: our future is too important. We can no longer be ignored. The goal was to protect these sacred waters, and to do so in the name of our children.
And, with yesterday’s decision, it is clear that our voices have at long last been heard.
Yesterday’s decision demonstrates that, despite all the challenges that tribes face and all of the terrible wrongs the federal government has committed in dealing with us over the years, justice for Indian people still remains possible. My thanks to the Obama Administration, and particularly to Assistant Secretary [Jo-Ellen] Darcy, for upholding the law and doing the right thing.
Yesterday’s decision belongs in large measure to the thousands of courageous people who put their lives on hold to stand with Standing Rock in support of a basic principle—that water is life. At Standing Rock, our youth played an important role in spreading our message and I am so proud of what they have been able to accomplish.
But Standing Rock could not have come this far alone. Hundreds of tribes came together in a display of tribal unity not seen in hundreds of years. And many thousands of indigenous people from around the world have prayed with us and made us stronger. I am grateful to each of you. And, as we turn a page with yesterday’s decision, I look forward to working with many of you as you return to your home communities to protect your lands and waters, and the sovereignty of your tribes.
My thanks to all of our allies, here and around the world, each of whom contributed to this effort. I want to give a special mention to the veterans who have come to Standing Rock in recent days. I am sure that the strength of your message in support of Standing Rock, and the rights of the Water Protectors, had a powerful impact as the Army made its decision. I appreciate all you have done.
While today is a great day, there is still much that needs to be done to protect tribal rights and ensure justice for indigenous people everywhere. Using peace and prayer as our guideposts, and with the teachings of our elders and with inspiration from our youth, I believe there is much we can accomplish for the future.
Dave Archambault II is chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.