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The Standing Rock Water Protectors, a group of land and water protectors led by Indigenous Sioux leaders, sighed in relief on December 4th, 2016, when the news arrived that the Army Corp of Engineers (ACE) had denied the easement requested by Energy Transfer Partners that would have allowed the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to begin drilling under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River. The Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company in control of the billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline Project, has been at the helm of this battle for nine months.

Standing Rock And Dakota Access Pipeline Re-Cap

Back in April of 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies began the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The aim of the Dakota Access Pipeline is to transport 500,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil across 1,172 miles. The company intends to lay lines all the way from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. To extract oil, they have to drill underground until they hit a pool of flowing oil. It is necessary to have several drill pads set up all along the pipeline’s route, each potentially contaminating millions of people and animals’ drinking water, as well as damaging the ecosystem surrounding it. In most of these pipelines, the chemicals used to thin the crude oil inevitably eat away at the seals, which lead to leaks. Equipment malfunctions also pose an environmental risk. The list of reported pipeline incidents proves that it isn’t a matter of if the pipelines will leak; it is simply a matter of when. I myself was at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, from Mid-September through October, in order to protect the sacred Mni Wiconi — “Water is Life”. The Oceti Sakowin Camp is one of three camps set up for the water protectors; this is where many of the front-line and direct action warriors stayed. For Water Protectors, the concern is what will happen when the pipeline leaks. I have seen the first-hand effects of chemical spills and oil spills; it is devastating. In 2015, CNN released an article titled 5 Years After The Gulf of Mexico Spill: What We Do (and Don’t) Know, reporting that the damage from the Macondo Spill in 2010 is likely to last for generations.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?”

The Army’s Assistant Secretary For Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, stated, “The consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.” This decision ultimately gives the Water Protectors more time to regroup and proceed through the legal motions for the forthcoming court cases. This does not mean the pipeline is stopped — it just means they are discussing alternate routes. The water protectors are fighting for something bigger: a complete rejection of the pipeline. So, while Standing Rock Water Protectors were ecstatic about the good news, there are still many concerns and speculations floating around camp. According to Business Wire, the ETP doesn’t have much regard for ACE’s decision to deny the easement. The ETP has been saying, “The ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe.” The Energy Transfer Partners are one of the largest and most diverse businesses in the oil industry. Their partners, SXL also known as Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P., is a master limited partnership that operates the logistics aspects of business when it comes to pipelines. This weighs heavy on the Water Protectors minds, even though in a recent interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II stated, “The pipeline’s not going to move ahead. The campers that are there can now enjoy the winter with their families at home.” Archambault knows winters in North Dakota are harsh, so he thinks it best for people to go take a break. However, one of the Water Protectors at the scene, who wished to be anonymous, explains:

Protecting the sacred is a way of life; it never ends. Water Protectors and Earth Guardians all over the world are waking up, many will soon join the fight and many already have. We Stand! The denial of the easement is just a small victory; it is now time to recharge.

Thus, it is a victorious yet confusing and emotional time for the Standing Rock Water Protectors. In an  interview with CBS Mark Albert, Warren admits that he feels 100 percent positive that when Trump changes seats with Obama, the Dakota Access Pipeline will go through, after all. Donald Trump has minor holdings in ETP and Kelcy Warren donated over $100,000 to the Trump Campaign. It is known that Trump stands behind  the oil industry and believes that climate change is a myth. Chief Arvol Looking Horse Keeper of The Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe announced in a video message: “The news of the permit being denied, the victory is there but the battle is not over. No, this is a beginning that we’re going into right now! … Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way!” Chase Iron Eyes, a member of The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and an attorney and American Indian Activist also made a video where he stated it is far from time for the Protectors to leave. There are many Water Protectors and allies that are not ready to leave and have made all of the adjustments to winterize their camps  to stay as long as it takes. They have set up tipis, yurts, and have built temporary structures that are able to endure the conditions in North Dakota. I recently spoke with Aldo Seoane, cofounder of Wica Agli, an organization that is working to end violence in communities. Aldo’s response to the current situation at hand was:

This fight is far from over. The reality is that until we can come together as relatives and begin respecting each other’s inherent right to live life the way nature intended, we will always be oppressing one another. There are hundreds of pipeline government policies and forms of ignorant thinking that are waiting to conquer our lands, pollute our waters, and put our families in danger — but we must stay vigilant, prayerful and always willing to do what we must to provide a world in which our grandchildren can thrive.

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What’s Going Down Right Now

It is true that with all of the bad weather and harsh conditions that many people have left camp to return home, some for just a break while others will wait out the winter. However, there are still three camps of protesters: Sacred Stone Camp, Rosebud Camp, and All Nations (formerly known as Oceti Sakowin) that are staying for the long haul. “I am happy in my heart for this news, but we will not be fooled. This is not the end, simply the beginning,” another anonymous water protector recently expressed.

Now it is time for the politics and paperwork, but we will still be here protecting this land and the water because paperwork has never done anything for us. Indigenous and Natives just take a look at all of the broken treaties. I kneel and pray at the river every morning … I see the eagles and the Tatanka Oyate (Buffalo Nation) living free and thriving; they drink from these waters. When all’s said and done, the four-legged, winged, two-legged, and the ones who slither and crawl will have to live here. Their life is sacred too. I will stand for them and I will not forget all who came. Mni Wiconi — water is life!

As far as the timeline for an appeal to the issue, sources say that sometime in January the Dakota Access Pipeline has to provide all necessary information pertaining to Environmental Impact Statements and Assessments to the courts. Once that is done, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will have 10 days to respond. The actual hearing will take place sometime in February. The Standing Rock Water Protectors vow to stay in camp as long as it takes to win this battle. Many of the protesters have made a long journey back home with the intent to return as soon as they hear the next call. For the water protectors who will have to stay in North Dakota to take this battle to court, there has been discussion of finding a building for their housing, as the cold of Winter makes camping in the area extremely uncomfortable. Many other waterways, such as Lake Oahe, are also in danger. The water is not only important to the people but the animals, environment, and ecosystem as well. I saw beautiful bald eagles with my own eyes nesting right up on the bluffs near the river. They fly down to the waters and drink where there now stands a drill pad being set up. The drill pad is where the boring drill will be installed in order to access the oil. Take a stand with Standing Rock and say #NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline). Our future depends on it and so do the next seven generations. Why wait until there is an accident when there are so many other clean options? There is no excuse the time is now. Watch It’s Not Over! | Chief Arvol Looking Horse | NoDAPL updates GarciaElaina Garcia grew up in New York on Long Island. She is studying Business Management and Entrepreneurship at Hocking College. Elaina was a teacher for eight years teaching grades K-8. She writes about natural medicines, off-grid living, and many other topics pertaining to wildlife and nature. Submit your story or essay to Buzzworthy Blogs

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