This week, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Indigenous organisers across America the country scored a much anticipated legal victory when a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to be shut down and emptied of all oil, pending an environmental review.
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, an elder of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Ojibwe lawyer Tara Houska, founder of the Giniw Collective, discussed with Democracy Now what this incredible moment means for their community.
Hope for the future
Discussing her initial thoughts following the news that the pipeline is to be shut down, Allard said: “You ever have a dream, a dream that comes true? That is what it is when I got up in the morning and seen that. I was overwhelmed. I’m still overwhelmed. If people could understand how much I love my home, how much I love my land and my river, it is the greatest thing in the whole world.”
She also commented on how this mat only the start of an incredibly long legal process, but she is hopeful for the future and that the hard work of activists who have been campaigning for this moment will pay off: “I know that it’s going to be appealed. I know it’s going to be a long journey, but we’re here for the long journey. It is not about who’s right or wrong; it’s about how do we live in the future.
She added: “And for me, the last four years have been hard. And so this has been a great blessing. I am so thankful for the judges, for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, for the lawyers and for every water protector that stood up on every frontline, for every keyboard warrior, for the support. Overwhelming is all I can say, and great thanks.”
A shift away from fossil fuels
Houska, who was on the ground in 2016 and also a part of the resistance, added how this ruling makes her hopeful that this could signal a shift away from large investments within the fossil fuel industry. She said: “You know, I’m very hopeful that the shareholders [this morning] are waking up and reconsidering their investment in the fossil fuel industry, and particularly the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.”
She added: “You know, we just saw the Atlantic Coast Pipeline also get scrapped. We’ve seen Keystone XL get scrapped through the years, the Energy East tar sands pipeline get scrapped. This is a series of events and resistance, particularly led by Indigenous people across Turtle Island, that the expansion of the fossil fuel industry just cannot happen any longer. And to see this momentous win, I’m really hopeful that the shareholders, who really do control the bottom line, are looking at this and not only reconsidering their Indigenous peoples policy, their need for free, prior and informed consent instead of just consultation, but that they are reconsidering their entire outlook into what our energy economy looks like, which should be a green economy at this point.”
As we move forward from this momentous win, we should use it as an example to inspire others and demonstrate how protesting, campaigning, and determination can influence change and push progress forward.