The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has defied history. This is Trahant Reports.
Nearly two years ago the Dakota Access Pipeline and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told the tribe about an inevitable pipeline that would cross near their reservation and within treaty lands. The tribe objected. But it was inevitable. A done deal.
But the tribe, and its allies, had a different idea. There was a lot of prayer — as well as direct action by Water Protectors putting the company and the state of North Dakota on notice.
But the Dakota Access Pipeline’s owners and the state has ignored tribal concerns. Why should the project stop? It was inevitable. A done deal.
One example of that thinking was an extraordinary exchange before the U.S. Court of Appeals, where the company admitted that the process was incomplete. Judge Thomas B. Griffith asked: “Why not wait until you see whether you’re going to get the easement?” asked Judge Thomas B. Griffith. “To a neutral outside observer, it looks like you’re forcing their hand … So it’s a gamble. You’re gambling you’re going to win.”
That gamble blew up Sunday night. On the same weekend when thousands of veterans showed up to support Standing Rock, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will not grant an easement under the Missouri River. And the corps will now require an Environmental Impact Statement for at least part of the project.
So what now? Energy Transfer Partners said Sunday night: “Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”
So here we go again. Inevitable. A done deal. If only the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Tribe, hundreds of other tribes, and people from across the planet would not have got in the way.
But no energy company can roll over a community that’s united.
Second, President-elect Donald J. Trump can revisit this issue. He probably will. But it will not be easily undone. I have been writing for months that President Obama would likely take this action but it had to be done in concert with the federal agencies involved. A president’s power is not absolute.
Third, and most important, this is a moment when North Dakota can tell the world what it really wants to be. The timing is ideal for a new beginning, a spirit of reconciliation. The state should get serious about an environmental impact statement, a smarter route, work with the tribes, end prosecutions, and pardon those who are in the criminal justice system. Even better: Take one more step and build bridges by investing in the Standing Rock neighborhood.
This whole pipeline encounter was a better story for the 19th century and not the 21st. It represented the total breakdown in communications between the tribes and the State of North Dakota. There’s now a path toward the healing that needs to occur. And that is what should be inevitable. A done deal.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.