Despite the court victories, the arrival of another U.S. president hasn’t resulted in the closure of the pipeline, whose final portion lies on territory promised to the Sioux Nation under the 1868 treaty. Youth expressed continued frustration with the state of affairs, prompting their return to Washington, D.C., where they marched from the headquarters of the Army Corps to the White House, carrying a physical manifestation of their opponent through the streets of the city. “The black snake symbolizes the Dakota Access Pipeline and we just now slayed it,” Maya Runnels, the president of the Standing Rock Youth Council, said at Black Lives Matter Plaza, which is about the closest the public can get to the White House due to increased security around the facility. “And now we’re giving it back to the White House, because we don’t want it on our land,” said Runnels after Lakota youth counted coup by striking down the 200-foot-long black snake at President Biden’s front door. About three dozen youth from Standing Rock, Cheyenne River and Lower Brule — some as young as 16 years old — left their homes in North Dakota and South Dakota last Saturday in preparation for their events in D.C. They were accompanied by parents, chaperones and family members. Along the way, the Lakota youth were hosted by the Meskwaki Nation in Iowa, where the Dakota Access Pipeline also runs through. Sarah Young Bear-Brown, a mother and activist from that tribal community, took part in the protest in D.C., speaking in front of the Army Corps headquarters in American Sign Language. “The pipelines always break. We need to stop these pipelines,” Young Bear-Brown signed. She later led the crowd in a vocalized chant of “Kill the black snake” against Dakota Access. Another group of Native activists also joined the events to call attention to the to Stop Line 3 movement. The proposed oil pipeline would run through Ojibwe territory in northern Minnesota, where Silas Neeland, a 12-year-old citizen of the White Earth Nation, said it would cause major damage to wild rice, one of his people’s most important foods. “We are not here to ask Biden, but we are here to demand Biden because he needs to learn to respect our treaties and our water,” Neeland said at the Army Corps building. Last summer, a federal court in D.C. ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline. In June 2020, Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the Army Corps approved the final portion near the home of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe without conducting a full environmental analysis of the impacts on treaties, water rights and related issues. The wealthy backers of the $3.8 billion project immediately challenged the ruling. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals later put the shutdown on hold pending further litigation. On January 26, just days after President Biden took office, the D.C. Circuit once again confirmed that the Army Corps acted “unlawfully” in approving the final portion of the pipeline at Standing Rock.
“We are here today to kill this big black snake”: Lakota youth from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe at US Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in #DC to tell President Joe Biden to #ShutDownDAPL. #StopLine3 @SRYouthCouncil #NoDAPL #LandBack @joebiden pic.twitter.com/kb0xS2ZQZk— indianz.com (@indianz) April 1, 2021
“The tribes’ unique role and their government-to-government relationship with the United States demand that their criticisms be treated with appropriate solicitude,” Judge David S. Tatel wrote in the decision.However, the appeals court refused to order the shutdown of the pipeline, which has been in operation since June 2017, after the Trump administration rushed it through the federal review process.
The White House has not responded to media inquiries about Biden’s stance on Dakota Access. In contrast, he rescinded approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline on his first day in office on January 20. Tribes also fought heavily against the project. The events in D.C. took place on the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Sacred Stone Camp, which was the first to arise in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline on April 1, 2016. The movement quickly expanded, attracting multiple camps and drawing upwards of 10,000 people during peak times of resistance, particularly in the summer of 2016 and then again in December of that year. In August 2016, shortly after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe began litigating the pipeline, Lakota youth completed a 2,000-mile relay run to the nation’s capital. The ReZpect Our Water event culminated with a rally in front of the White House. A number of the participants in the run were present on Thursday.
Lakota youth from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are at US Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in #DC to tell President Joe Biden to #ShutDownDAPL. #StopLine3 @SRYouthCouncil #NoDAPL #LandBack @joebiden @POTUS @WhiteHouse pic.twitter.com/rzIqBubaFb— indianz.com (@indianz) April 1, 2021
A month after the Trump administration approved the final portion at Standing Rock, about 5,000 Native people and allies marched to the White House as part of Native Nations Rise on March 10, 2017. Thursday’s event was much smaller, with the crowd mindful of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. All participants wore masks and other protective equipment, starting with the run on the National Mall, and ending with the rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Marching from US Army Corps of Engineers to Black Lives Matter Plaza and White House tell President Joe Biden to #ShutDownDAPL. #StopLine3 @SRYouthCouncil #NoDAPL #LandBack @potus @whitehouse @JoeBiden pic.twitter.com/qS1TwRxFus— indianz.com (@indianz) April 1, 2021
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