Picture of Lex Horan

Lex Horan

Thank you, water protectors!

For months, all eyes have been on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s treaty lands, where the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was charted to go under the Missouri River — undermining the sovereignty of the tribe and threatening the drinking water of 18 million people.

On Sunday, the water protectors at Standing Rock won a major victory: the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit to drill under the Missouri River.

The struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline is far from over. But this week, we at PAN send our gratitude to the water protectors at Standing Rock — the Lakota youth and elders who have led the struggle from the beginning, representatives from more than 200 indigenous nations who have come to Standing Rock in solidarity, and their allies for putting their bodies on the line to stop the pipeline.

PAN stands with Standing Rock

At PAN, we believe that every community has a right to clean water, clean air, and food that is healthy, culturally appropriate, produced sustainably and theirs. The root of our solidarity with Standing Rock is simple: when Native water protectors claim “a right to defend our water and our lives, simply because we have a natural right to defend ourselves and our communities,” we agree.

Treaties between the United States and Native nations are the law of the land. While the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline passes just outside the boundaries of the Standing Rock Reservation, it cuts across 1851 treaty lands of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations were never properly consulted in the DAPL approval process.

Treaties are deeply relevant to our work on food, agriculture and pesticides. Although many treaties were written to protect the traditional food ways of Indigenous peoples, pesticides don’t respect reservation borders or treaty rights. Native communities are often on the frontlines of pesticide impacts — from rural reservation communities fighting pesticide drift, to Indigenous people in the Arctic who are working to protect their traditional foods from pesticide contamination.

When U.S. policies undermine the sovereignty of Native nations by violating treaties, those of us who are not Native feel the reverberations, though we’re far from the first to be impacted. These violations are unacceptable in their own right, and this kind of disregard for treaty rights takes away a critical tool in our fight against hazardous pesticides in our food system.

Finally, agriculture depends on clean water. Iowa farmers have leveled major concerns against DAPL for threatening the water supply to their fields and seizing their agricultural land for pipeline construction. As our work alongside Iowa farmers to stop pesticide drift continues, we stand with them now against this threat to their health and livelihoods.

The DAPL fight continues

It’s great news that the Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement which would allow the DAPL corporation to drill under the Missouri River. The Corps also promised an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the project, making the right decision — under sustained pressure from Native people and allies. As Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network puts it:

“Straight up: WE MADE THIS HAPPEN. Our power is what changed the administration’s mind. Walking in prayer. Hitting up the banks. Shutting down streets. Locking down to machines. Calling and mailing politicians. Talking at the dinner table. Concerts. Marches. Livestreaming. Singing. Protesting. Protecting. Defending. And praying. It all combined got us here. We need to claim this momentary victory as our own. Long before I thank any administration official . . . I thank our pipeline fighters, our water protectors, our land defenders. We caused this to happen. This is our movement. A movement with Indigenous Rights at its core.”

What happens now?

A lot is uncertain. Some water protectors doubt that Energy Transfer Partners will actually stop construction; they suspect that DAPL might simply swallow the fines and keep building, since the corporation is in a race against time. As months pass and no oil flows through the pipeline, investors are more likely to pull their investments.

And while the Obama Administration has taken a critical step to slow this project, it’s likely that this will change come January 20. Given Trump’s statements and his investments in the project, it’s likely his administration will do whatever possible to undermine the environmental review and fast-track the pipeline. 

This week’s victory gives us more time to increase the pressure on DAPL. Here are a few key things we can do:

Finally, wherever we are, there are Indigenous people fighting for sovereignty and survival. Those of us who aren’t Native can learn whose lands we live on and offer our support to their struggles for self-determination. 

Photo: Joey Podlubny | Flickr

Picture of Lex Horan

Lex Horan

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