Uncertainty Regarding the Protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline

The Editorial Voice of The Miter

The Editorial Voice of The Miter

Editorial Board

This past Sunday, December 4th, the US Army Corps of Engineers formally announced that it will not allow the company Energy Transfer Partners to finish constructing its $3.8 billion access oil pipeline under a dammed section of the Missouri River on a stretch of land near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation in central North Dakota.

The news was delivered as a resounding victory to the thousands of protesters who made the trip out to the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock. These individuals settled at the encampment in order to protest and express their disapproval of the access oil pipeline’s construction.

Tribal members paraded through the camp on horseback this past Sunday, jubilantly beating drums and gathering around a fire at the center of the camp. Tribal elders celebrated what they said was the validation of months of prayer and protest.

“It’s wonderful,” said Standing Rock tribal chairman Dave Archambault as he addressed the coalition of protesters. “You all did that. Your presence has brought the attention of the world.”

The decision, he said, meant that people no longer had to stay at the camp during North Dakota’s brutal winter. Not only that, the Corps of Engineers, which manages the land, had already formally ordered the Oceti Sakowin camp to be closed down by no later than December 5th.

All that being said, a vast majority of the protestors still remain situated at the encampment. Upon the breaking of the news Sunday afternoon, several campers were adamant that they were not going anywhere anytime soon. According to the protesters, there were too many uncertainties surrounding the Army Corps’s decision and they have dedicated too much time and emotion to this fight to leave now.

By defying the Army Corps’s ultimatum, the protestors are setting the stage for a seemingly inevitable confrontation — one that could draw hundreds more protesters to the scene and end tragically.

So, who is in the right in this situation? The Miter Staff has a difficult time reaching an assured consensus regarding this issue.

On one hand, the Army Corps, who are responsible for managing the land, did clearly set and inform the protestors of a deadline in which they would need to disperse from Standing Rock as a matter of public safety. Additionally, they patiently waited until a verdict was reached in the dispute, which one now has been, before making any attempt to get them to disperse. With that, can they really be to blame for forcing the protesters to disperse?

On the other hand, the protestors are obviously entitled to protest by virtue of their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Additionally, as the Obama administration’s tenure comes to its end in the near future, the Trump administration could ultimately decide to allow the original, contested route for the access oil pipeline if they so choose in the foreseeable future. That being the case the case, although a verdict was officially reached by the Army Corps, the fate of the access oil pipeline is far from conclusion. With that, can they really be to blame for having a desire to stay put and continue to voice their concern?

Ultimately, The Miter Staff believes that although the protesters are not in the wrong for having a desire to remain put and continue to advocate for what they feel is right, the Army Corps would be warranted in a decision to force the protesters to disperse over concerns of public safety, so long as they do so in a respectful, non barbaric way.

Although the future of the access oil pipeline is far from certain as of now, the fate of the protestors arguing over it is foreseeable. Simply put; they’ll have to leave at some point. And like it or not, it will almost definitely be against their will. All we can hope for in this situation is that when we eventually make it to this instance, protesters and Army Corps officials are able to resolve the predicament peacefully.