The suspension of construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River is an incredible victory, but the fight against “The Black Snake” is far from over.
On December 4th, an easement was denied for the extension of a crude oil pipeline under the Missouri River. The pipeline faced strong opposition in Dakota from the indigenous Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock Indian Reservation. In spiritual resistance, a camp was established as a centre for cultural preservation. The threat to drinking water and the likely violation of sacred burial grounds were listed as chief amongst the ‘Water Protectors’ concerns.
The initially small camp swelled over the summer to a gathering of many thousands, consisting of members from over 300 indigenous tribes. Though their actions were always peaceful, Water Protectors faced police brutality so extreme that a public condemnation was issued by Amnesty International. This militant response from authorities meant that when the announcement of the suspension came it was tinged with as much shock and relief as it was celebration.
The celebration remains cautious, though, with the Water Protectors vowing not to leave “until the black snake is dead”. Locally this fight remains multifaceted: ensuring that the legal blockade is not breached, supporting those water protectors who face their own legal charges and sustaining their victory into the term of president-elect Trump, an outspoken supporter of pipeline projects. All of this means the struggle for Standing Rock is far from over.
It is equally important to recognize that standing with standing rock never meant merely resisting the pipeline in Dakota. If the DAPL is a single black snake, then it is part of a much wider labyrinth of indigenous exploitation; a system which burdens indigenous communities with the worst of environmental destruction, caused, historically, by colonial powers and their economic institutions. By extension, our solidarity is incomplete unless we also stand against this wider system of colonial exploitation.
So, yes, we should stand with standing rock, celebrate their incredible victory, and be in awe of their inspiring strength. We should sustain, too, the pressure on UK institutions to divest from the DAPL project. But we also need to recognize that standing with standing rock does not end in Dakota, it merely begins there.