Editorial: Standing Rock Sioux’s fight is not over

With only one day left before they would be told to evacuate the construction site, Native Americans and supporters of the No DAPL protest all around the country are celebrating.

After months of protesting and demonstrations in support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday it will explore alternative routes for the pipeline crossing through Sioux land and conduct an environmental-impact statement with public input and analysis. This means that the current route for the Dakota Access Pipeline is being denied, a major triumph for the efforts of the Sioux and protesters.

While the announcement is a victory for Native Americans and indigenous rights, there is still the possibility that the project could go through under a Trump Administration. We must continue to push our lawmakers and companies to respect the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the environmental consequences of these energy projects.

The tribal members have long stood against the pipeline because it would endanger their water sources and damage the historic and culturally significant land, which is half a mile away from the reservation border.

The pipeline would transport crude oil across North Dakota to Illinois and carry about 470,000 barrels per day. While the economic benefits of the project include greater energy independence for the United States, the oil company went forward with construction without concern for the Native American land it was crossing.

President-elect Donald Trump has several ties to the 1,772 mile project and has vowed to support energy pipelines such as this one. Trump has invested in Energy Transfer Partners in the past and owns a stake in Phillips 66, which owns 25 percent of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Although his team stated that there was no conflict of interest in his support, the likelihood of Trump putting business interests over the environment is substantial.

Thousands of protesters, celebrities, activists and veterans across the country have stood with the tribe in protecting their lands in cities like New York, Seattle, Denver and here in Pittsburgh. Oftentimes the demonstrations at the reservation were disrupted by law enforcement wielding tear gas and water cannons.

Under the terms of the 1851 treaty, the main camp sits on federal lands that have been assigned to the Standing Rock Sioux, which would be broken if the construction pursued. The current halt is a positive step forward, but it’s not guaranteed.

A memo from a Trump aide, for example, said that the president-elect supports completing the project because it’s good policy.

This plus Trump’s shifting positions on climate change leaves uncertainty to the future of our environment and the Dakota Access Pipeline. The movement to halt the pipeline’s construction on Sioux land must continue to challenge his administration and any effort to infringe on environmental justice and indigenous rights.

We should celebrate this victory for people trying to protect their water and homeland. This an excellent example of the power of social movements in pressuring the system. But supporters shouldn’t let celebrations end their action. We should continue to keep lawmakers accountable. We must push back and insist that the future of our planet is more important than economic benefits. And we must demand our new president to take the environment and rights of Standing Rock Sioux’s members seriously.

If we want to make up for the mistakes we made in history, the Standing Rock fight must continue.

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