'I'm here until they're done': Standing Rock protesters savour a victory, but not packing up just yet

A decision to deny permission for the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline to be built under a Missouri River reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was cause for celebration, but it seems unlikely protesters will leave the site anytime soon.

'I don't think a lot of us think that it's done': Protesters not packing up just yet

Historic decision at Standing Rock

The National

5 years ago
The CBC's Karen Pauls reports from South Dakota as construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline is halted 2:34

All is dark at the Oceti Sakowin camp in southern North Dakota, but there is a cacophony of hammering and a couple of lanterns lighting a small work site.

Joel Maurer, a tiny house carpenter from California, gets set to hoist a piece of plywood, explaining this will soon be a new cabin and meeting room for a prominent chief at the camp.

With a decision Sunday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny permission for the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline to pass under a reservoir of the Missouri River, one might expect people to pack up and head home, mission accomplished.

But as this construction site demonstrates, some say they're doing just the opposite.

"Any little victory is wonderful," said Maurer, "But they've got money. They've got lawyers."

People celebrate that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp as demonstrations continue to protest plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline adjacent to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Maurer is speaking of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the multi-billion dollar pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois.

The pipeline is largely complete, aside from the section that passes underneath the reservoir.

Those opposed to the pipeline have long said they are concerned that drinking water and sacred sites could be contaminated.

Late Sunday, the company called the army decision a "purely political action," blaming the Obama administration and saying it has no plans to re-route.

"I don't think a lot of us think that it's done, you know?" said Maurer. "For all I know, it's just another ploy to get us out of here."

Winona Kasto says despite a decision by the Army not to grant an easement under Lake Oahe, she plans to keep praying and being mindful of future moves of the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Angela Johnston/CBC)

'Pure joy' over Sunday's decision

Winona Kasto says she cried when she heard the news.

"We won," she said. "We won."

Protesters celebrate pipeline denial


5 years ago
Decision to deny permission met with cautious optimism 0:43

Kasto, who is from Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, runs a popular kitchen at Oceti Sakowin, which serves up traditional food such as deer soup and fry bread. On Sunday, she estimates she fed about 1,000 people.

Of the decision she said, "When we heard it, oh man, everyone just stopped doing what they were doing and it was joy, pure joy."

She too remains suspicious of the pipeline, and is not packing it in just yet.

"I'm here until they're done so whatever decisions happen, I'm going to be here."

Fireworks explode above the Oceti Sakowin camp after the Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline to pass adjacent to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, N.D. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

While it is not yet clear when or if people here might leave the site where they have been entrenched for months, it appeared Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault at least opened the door yesterday to winding down the camp.

"With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones," he said.

Another question floating around the camp is what happens when Donald Trump becomes president.

"He came out in support of the pipeline, I believe, so we'll see what happens," said Maurer.

But for now, others are just soaking in a feeling of accomplishing what they set out to do.

Dominique Bouchard, 23, said she felt a synchronization with everyone in the camp the moment the decision became apparent.

"I finally feel like I can die happy. Like I've made a difference in the world."

Construction continues at the Oceti Sakowin camp near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in southern North Dakota, despite a decision by the Army on Sunday to not grant permission for a pipeline to cross under a river nearby, a move pipeline opponents see as a victory. (Angela Johnston/CBC)