By toasting the illusion of victory, we could undo what we have built at Standing Rock, this unprecedented act of collective resistance. By celebrating too soon, you're helping to build a pipeline.
All Native struggles in the United States are a struggle against erasure. The poisoning of our land, the theft of our children, the state violence committed against us -- we are forced to not only live in opposition to these ills, but also to live in opposition to the fact that they are often erased from public view and public discourse, outside of Indian Country. The truth of our history and our struggle does not match the myth of American exceptionalism, and thus, we are frequently boxed out of the narrative.
The struggle at Standing Rock, North Dakota, has been no exception, with Water Protectors fighting tooth and nail for visibility, ever since the Sacred Stone prayer encampment began on April 1.
For months, major news outlets have ignored what's become the largest convergence of Native peoples in more than a century. But with growing social media amplification and independent news coverage, the corporate media had finally begun to take notice. National attention was paid. Solidarity protests were announced in cities around the country. The National Guard was activated in North Dakota.
The old chant, "The whole world is watching!" seemed on the verge of accuracy in Standing Rock.
And then came today's ruling, with a federal judge finding against the Standing Rock Sioux, and declaring that construction of the pipeline could legally continue. It was the ruling I expected, but it still stung. I felt the sadness, anger and disappointment that rattled many of us as we received the news. But then something happened. Headlines like, "Obama administration orders ND pipeline construction to stop" and "The Obama Administration Steps In to Block the Dakota Access Pipeline" began to fill my newsfeed, with comments like, "Thank God for Obama!" attached to them.
Clearly, a major plot twist has occurred. But it's not the one that's being sold.
To understand that this isn't the victory it's being billed as, you have to read the fine print in the presently lauded joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior:
"The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws."
Note what's actually being said here, what's being promised and what isn't.
What is actually being guaranteed?
But this next section is a little more promising, right?
"Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved -- including the pipeline company and its workers -- deserves a clear and timely resolution. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahu."