Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault, who has been at the centre of a contentious pipeline debate in North Dakota, says he’s willing to support future pipeline fights — including those in Canada.
“If I have an opportunity to make a difference for this world, and if that means standing up with people who have a strong belief and help them with their cause, I’ll be more than willing to be there,” he told CBC News Monday from the Standing Rock tribal chambers in Fort Yates, N.D.
His declaration comes as pipeline opponents continue to celebrate a decision on Sunday denying permission to tunnel under a reservoir of the Missouri River — albeit while remaining skeptical of the implications of Donald Trump’s impending U.S. presidency.
At the same time, others are looking at this case through the lens of Indigenous consent in future natural resource projects.
“I believe that you follow your heart and if you know something is not right, even though the law is the law, you have every right to stand up against it,” said Archambault.
“But I think it’s important that you stay in prayer. Prayer will get you through any adversity,” he added.
The 1,885-kilometre pipeline — owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP — is mostly complete, except for a segment that had been planned to run under Lake Oahe just outside the reservation near Cannon Ball, N.D.
The company released a statement Sunday night describing the U.S. Army Corps’ decision as a “purely political action” playing to an extreme political constituency.
The company added it has no plans to reroute the line.
“I say it’s over,” said Archambault in response. “Everybody needs to go home and the company needs to re-evaluate and re-assess and find an alternative route off our treaty lands.”
But Archambault clarified his goal is not to stop pipelines — including Dakota Access — entirely.
Oil will always be in demand
“The demand is always going to be there,” he said of oil. “What I’m asking is to reroute this pipeline off treaty lands, or if if you’re going to continue infrastructure projects like this, give us an opportunity to give consent.”
This case has experts pointing to possible future implications.
University of Manitoba law professor Aimée Craft says the significance of Standing Rock goes beyond one pipeline, adding she hopes future natural resource projects would incorporate more holistic decision-making and better inclusion of Indigenous people.
Tara Houska, an Indigenous lawyer, said, “This has gained the momentum it has because of solidarity from around the world and this very powerful gathering of Indigenous nations.”
Time to go home
As for the immediate future, Archambault says it’s time for people in the camps to go home. The cold weather makes it unsafe to stay.
“It’s time now. We can relax, we can breathe. and we don’t need to continue to create an unsafe environment. We don’t need to continue to put people’s lives at risk,” he said.
Yet fears linger among those in the main Oceti Sakowin camp about what a Trump presidency could mean down the line, with vows to stay rooted until that becomes clear.
Mr. President-elect, let’s chat
Archambault is diplomatic on that point.
“I see it as an opportunity to try to welcome a conversation with the president-elect, because he has to understand why we resisted this pipeline,” he said.
“We can build infrastructure, we can establish economies, we can assure national security and we don’t have to do it off Indigenous peoples’ backs,” added Archambault.
In fact, Archambault says, he is praying to speak with Trump, adding he would greet Trump with open arms.
“He’s welcome,” said Archambault. “Anyone is welcome to our community.”
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