Today a great cheer reverberates from a battlefield in North Dakota. This cry of triumph resonates from the throats of our Sioux brothers and sisters and the thousands of protesters who heeded their cry for help. They were handed this victory in the battle to protect the sovereignty of their sacred land. This hard-earned reprieve came on December 4, when the US Army Corps of Engineers, who had previously approved the permits to parent company “Energy Transfer Partners,” blocked those permits to construct the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. This pipeline would have put the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, the tribes’ drinking water, the watersheds of surrounding communities, the environment, and the sacred land that is linked to many of the Sioux’ spiritual beliefs, at great risk.
This victory is not just symbolic of good vs evil, David vs Goliath, or the disenfranchised vs big business. This victory is a testament to the collective power of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, pluralistic social movement that, when armed with social media, environmental and human rights activists, and the star power of courageous celebrities, such as Charleen Woodley, Danny Glover, Pharrell Williams, Susan Sarandon, Whoopie Goldberg, Woody Harrelson, Richard Gere, and Kobe Dennis, is capable of great things.
While this was a fine victory, we must not be lulled back to sleep, for the forces of evil are also resilient and steadfast. The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, said that “this decision represents the worst of big government.” Energy Transfer Partners put out a statement saying “this decision won’t change a thing.” Our president-elect Donald Trump, who is to be sworn in in a month’s time, owns a great deal of stock in Energy Transfer Partners. And like Alexander Dumas said about Luis XIII, “like all weak men, he is vindictive.” However, he has also shown a propensity towards tone reversal with a little gentle coaxing. This is evident in his changed views on immigration enforcement, border wall construction, and others.
So stand steadfast, locked arm-in- arm, armed with cell phones, shielded by video footage, defended by social media, and empowered by righteousness. Let’s show the powers that be that this continued assault against a people’s (whose only crime was being born on the wrong side of mass agriculture, monotheism, westward expansion, industrialization, the US government, and now Donald Trump), will cost those powers dearly—in money, manpower, litigation votes, and most importantly, in moral standing.
This post is published as part of the Prison Op/Ed Project, an occasional series authored by CCRI sociology students who are incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute.