After eight months of protesting, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and thousands of protestors succeeded in delaying the construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline.
The pipeline, in most recent form, was scheduled to be built through sacred Native American lands. Any leaks have the potential to pollute the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The pipeline’s delay, for many, has been celebrated as a victory for indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental protection.
UW student, community members stand in solidarity with Standing Rock protestersA group of about 100 protesters took to Library Mall Friday afternoon to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Read…
In October, after Madison City Council passed a resolution expressing solidarity with indigenous resistance to the pipeline, Ald. Rebecca Kemble, District 18, traveled to North Dakota to deliver the resolution to Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II.
While Kemble said nothing about the construction of the pipeline has technically changed since investors are still not pulling out from the project, she still considers it a win for the rights of indigenous people.
While there, Kemble acted as a legal observer, specifically to film interactions between police and indigenous people.
As she was leaving a ceremony at a pipeline site, she was arrested by what she described as “militarized police.”
Kemble will return to North Dakota Jan. 12 to fight charges for destruction of evidence, resisting arrest, inciting a riot and criminal trespassing. With these four charges, she faces up to two years in prison and up to $6,000 in fines.
“It meant a lot to me to get support from my constituents, even those who are conservative voiced their support and concern for me and hope that I will sue for wrongful arrest,” Kemble said. “That near unanimous support for my personal plight was excellent.”
Even though Kemble sees the halt as significant in showing all of the work people did to pressure the Obama Administration to slow down the project, she said the only way it will be a “win” is if creditors start calling in their debts and investors start pulling out.
“I do consider it a win in terms of the federal government actually making a decision supporting the rights of indigenous people over the corporations,” Kemble said.
In the same vein, Kemble believes unless the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to enforce their decision by forcefully removing equipment from the pipeline sites, the construction will continue.
Either way, Kemble sees the “unprecedented unity” of people from all different backgrounds as something to celebrate.
Similarly, Ald. Zach Wood, Distrct 8, said he is pleased and the halt is a big step in the right direction — but the fight isn’t over.
Whether the pipeline will be rerouted or remain in the same place, Wood said there are also environmental concerns that need to be met.
Along with expressing solidarity with tribal sovereignty, Wood said he hopes to see the Madison community continue valuing water natural resources and our environment.
“We need to continue vigilance. As a number of people have noted, this is not a done deal,” Wood said. “Unless [the pipeline] is killed entirely or goes somewhere else, the fight is not over.”