As of Sunday, a federal appeals court has thrown out the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's emergency motion to block construction of the Dakota Access pipeline on ancestral Standing Rock Sioux land.
For many participating in the unprecedented demonstration taking place in the middle of rural North Dakota, what that means is simple: There is now even less standing between bulldozers and a camp of thousands that has sprung up on Army Corps of Engineers land.
"There’s nothing stopping the company now from continuing," Kandi Mossett, a coordinator with the Indigenous Environmental Network who has been on the ground in North Dakota with her three year-old since August 15, said. "We have to go out and get physically arrested every day to stop construction."
Shortly after a judge threw out the tribe's emergency injunction the first time, on September 9, the Obama administration—including the Department of the Interior, the Army, and the Department of Justice—issued a joint statement asking the company to halt construction on Lake Oahe, where the pipeline is set to burrow under the Missouri River, and within 20 miles surrounding it. The departments said that the Army would not allow Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners, to construct the pipeline through these areas "until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws."
After the Obama administration issued that decision, a federal appeals court said it would also support halting construction within the 20-mile-zone until it ruled on whether the emergency injunction was valid. On October 5, the court said it needed more time. Four days later, on Sunday, the appellate court denied the emergency injunction. The court ruled that the tribe had failed to persuade the court that an emergency injunction would prevent irreparable harm and would not negatively impact public interest, among other criteria.
“The federal government recognizes what is at stake and has asked DAPL to halt construction,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II said in a statement after the court's decision. “We hope that they will comply with that request.”
But to Mossett, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Obama administration intervention is effectively worthless without support from the court system. She fears that out-of-state police forces assembling near the camp are ready to move in and force everyone out.
"Each day that passes is more cops coming, from all around North Dakota from other states, coming in all the time," Mossett said. "They are getting ready and they are gearing up. They will supposedly give us a 48-hour notice, but they say they’re going to move the camp. We don’t know. I’m like go ahead, go in and move the camp. We’ll move across the river. We’ll go on the reservation again. And you will have forcibly removed natives again."
This morning, 29 people demonstrating against pipeline construction, including actress Shailene Woodley, were arrested on Highway 6, where the 20-mile zone of protection ends. The ACLU of North Dakota has issued statements condemning law enforcement's use of checkpoints and militarized armored vehicles as tactics against the activists.
"We’re running out of options, we need help, we need the administration to step in," Mossett said. "Or we just take matters into our own hands, because we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to stop pipeline construction physically with our bodies."
Update: The Department of the Interior, the Army, and the Department of Justice have issued another joint statement asking that Dakota Access refrain from construction on Lake Oahe and within 20 miles surrounding the artificial reservoir on the Missouri River. The Army, the statement read, would not authorize construction on these areas.
"We also look forward to a serious discussion during a series of consultations, starting with a listening session in Phoenix on Tuesday, on whether there should be nationwide reform on the Tribal consultation process for these types of infrastructure projects," the statement read.