The Current

'Still a lot of work to do': Despite Standing Rock victory, protesters stay put

Protesters at Standing Rock are celebrating a fragile victory. But a woman who has been protesting for three months says the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline isn't over until it's over.
Decision to deny permission met with cautious optimism 0:43

Read story transcript

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Dec. 4, it would not allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Yet protesters have vowed to still stay in Standing Rock. 

Native American "water protectors" celebrate the Army Corps of Engineers denial of an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline inside the Oceti Sakowin camp, Dec. 4, 2016. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti speaks to Eryn Wise, media co-ordinator with the International Indigenous Youth Council. She's been living at the Sacred Stone protest camp, near Cannon Ball, North Dakora for more than three months.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Anna Maria Tremonti: What has the mood been like since that decision?

Eryn Wise: We were all pretty euphoric when we found out but everyone does acknowledge the reality that things could change with the next administration. And also that you know we aren't done here. There's still a lot of work to do. 

Dakota Access has already said that they are willing to pay the fine that they would incur from drilling underneath the river. They have full intention to drill under the water and continue ahead with this project.

Activists celebrate at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Dec. 4, outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The Army Corps of Engineers told Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Archambault the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline will be denied. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

AMT: And so if your fight is not over what do you want to see happen?

EW: We want to see the Dakota Access pipeline die. We don't want to see a re-route. We don't want it to affect another community. We want to see people acknowledge the instability of pipelines and acknowledge how unsafe they are, and stop putting them in the Earth. That's our ultimate goal.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse of Green Grass South Dakota is the spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux Nations. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

AMT: To what extent do you see this decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as as a partial victory for direct action?

EW: The majority of this has been a non-violent direct action win. We've shown people again in this country that you don't need to use force to make a statement. And I think now we have documentation of our prayer and our ceremony in order to that.

We've been painted as the aggressors for so long and you know that's been the United States' excuse for doing what they've done to us historically. And now there's a mirror that's being held up. And I think that mirror is showing the United States how violent it is and how, you know, non-violent Indigenous peoples really are.

Activists and veterans hold hands as they move a crowd back from a police barricade on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Dec. 4, 2016. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Standing Rock and Canada

The recent approval by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of two oil pipelines, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline and Enbridge's Line 3, have left many First Nations groups outraged here in Canada.

Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Serge Simon speaks to Tremonti about how Standing Rock protests correlates to Canada's fight against pieplines. Simon is the co-founder of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, which includes the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

AMT: What message do you take away from the news that the Dakota Access pipeline has to be rerouted?

Serge Simon: Well, I hate to use the term but a state of execution. When Donald Trump comes in as president of the United States there is the clear possibility that this could all resume and it might even be intensified when we look at the police forces and their brutality.

Activist and school teacher Lend Frison from Omaha, Nebraska, stands by a police barricade on a bridge near Oceti Sakowin Camp, December 4, 2016. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

AMT: You have said Canada could have 20 Standing Rocks. What do you mean by that?

SS: The treaty alliance is a treaty amongst Chiefs - the legal governing bodies of all the respective territories. Now we've taken a firm stance against the tar sands and the pipelines that would carry the product across the country. And we look at the correlation with Standing Rock.

Is it possible this could happen here? You're absolutely right it can. And if individual communities decide to take action we have almost 120 chiefs across the country on the treaty. If I say 20 I might be conservative in my estimate.

AMT: What kind of actions are you thinking of?

SS: Well for the Chiefs I know that a lot of lobbying may be taking part in some of the demonstrations. And if the grassroots decide well they're going to block roads or occupy government buildings then the Chiefs will be there to lend support. But we do have this type of authority as legal governing bodies to look after the interests of our people, and also to support each other when a particular project is harmful to the health of some of our members.

Listen to the full segment including what Canada could learn from Standing Rock.

This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino, Kristin Nelson and Julian Uzielli.

now