On December 4, 2016, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) denied Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) a permit to drill under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River. Despite mainstream media’s portrayal of this denial as a full victory, and despite the fact that many of the 3,000 veterans who had come to stand with Standing Rock for the threatened eviction of the Oceti Sakowin Camp on December 5, 2016, returned home the following day feeling assured by the victory, many Water Protectors regard the day as bittersweet.
Dallas Goldtooth, the Keep it in the Ground organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network — the organization leading the struggle at Standing Rock and working hand in hand with the Sioux Tribe — affirmed that “the decision by the Obama administration not to grant the final easement was a clear demonstration of effective organizing and mass mobilization and the power of the people and it was not an end-all victory.”
The Sioux Tribe and the Water Protectors were asking for a flat-out denial of the permit and a full Environmental Impact Statement, they got neither. Instead, the USACE said that it wouldn’t issue a permit at that time and that it would only carry out a limited impact statement. After the permit was denied pending further investigation, ETP — the company behind the construction of DAPL — did not leave. In fact, the company’s lights still shine brightly on the camp, their equipment is ready to go and according to Kandi Mossett, the Tribal Campus Climate Challenge Coordinator at the Indigenous Environmental Network, the drill pad site is still a “fortress.”