Sunday brought good news for the protesters at Standing Rock, when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would reroute the Dakota Access Pipeline. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army, said in a statement. The decision represents a victory for members of the Sioux tribe, environmental activists, and anyone who believes in the power of the people to enact real change.
The pipeline, which was to be built under a section of the Missouri River near the tribe’s reservation, posed significant human rights issues. “The Dakota Access Pipeline not only threatens the water supply that is fundamental to the Tribe’s existence, but it will also pass through and destroy burial sites and sacred places,” said Robert T. Coulter, executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center. For months, Native and non-Native protesters camped out at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, near the proposed site of the pipeline, battling the bitter weather and facing off with police.
Still, Sunday’s decision does not guarantee the end of the pipeline’s construction. The Army’s announcement merely calls for further research into “alternate routes,” meaning the pipeline could simply be redirected—maintaining its environmental risk. Second, there is little insurance that this decision, granted under the Obama administration, will be honored by the next. Donald Trump, who has investments in the pipeline’s company, endorsed the completion of the pipeline. So while this moment is worthy of celebration, it probably does not mark the end of this fight.