Peninsula protesters cheer news that pipeline access denied over Standing Rock land

STANDING ROCK — Determined protesters who were ready to dig in for the winter broke out in celebration Sunday when the news was announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would deny access to the Dakota Access Pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, said Meri Parker of the Makah Tribe.

“When the news was announced today, there were tears of joy, tears of disbelief,” said Parker of Neah Bay, who arrived at the reservation in North Dakota last Tuesday.

“I was crying, too,” she said, describing people praying, singing and hugging.

“The reaction has been overwhelmingly jubilant,” said Parker, a former Makah Tribal Council member and general manager. The way to victory, Parker said, “was to be peaceful and prayerful and standing for the cause.”

Port Townsend resident Doug Milholland was with protesters at the reservation in North Dakota when the news was announced, said his wife, Nancy Milholland. He had called her when he heard the news, she said.

“He’s just thrilled,” she said Sunday afternoon.

Megan Claflin, spokeswoman for a group of 30 people who took food and supplies to Standing Rock from Port Townsend on Nov. 21 and returned Nov. 27, was celebrating in Port Townsend.

“My immediate reaction is a sense of victory, an affirmation that our peaceful, prayerful efforts were successful,” Claflin said, while adding that it might be a temporary victory.

The Wall Street Journal noted that President-elect Donald Trump has said that he supports the Dakota Access pipeline.

At Sunday’s Jefferson County Democrats meeting in Port Townsend, a roar rose up from some 200 people when Chairwoman Linda Callahan announced the news.

“Our voices matter. Our voices are heard,” Callahan said after the cheers subsided.

“I get a lot of hope,” added former Jefferson County Democrats chair Matt Sircely, “from the solidarity around Standing Rock.”

Parker said an estimated 10,000 people were camped in opposition to the plans by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to build a pipeline across Sioux sacred land and under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota.

Protests began months ago, after Sioux leaders said that the pipeline threatened sacred sites and told of fears that a leak could contaminate drinking water.

“More than 300 tribes have been represented here, indigenous people from all over the world,” Parker said.

“We have 4,000 veterans here, too. All these veterans have literally deployed here.

“It’s an amazing scene.”

Parker said that one reason she joined the protest in North Dakota is because of the risk of oil spills that the Makah feel in their position at the northeast corner of the state.

“Tanker traffic passes by our front door every day,” she said. “It makes a difference. It’s meaningful to me to be here.

“I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be here today and stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Tribe.”

The pipeline is being built to transfer oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. The $3.7 billion pipeline would transport about 470,000 barrels of domestic crude oil a day.

The 1,200-mile, four-state pipeline is largely complete except for a section that would pump oil under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota, The Associated Press has reported.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that the Corps must “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline’s crossing. Her full decision doesn’t rule out that it could cross under the reservoir or north of Bismarck.

“This is a small victory in a bigger fight,” Claflin said. “What does this mean?

“It doesn’t mean that the pipeline’s dead. It means that the process will be longer.”

Paul Magrid, who with Daniel Milholland led a caravan of some 30 people to Standing Rock carrying donated food and supplies, said the decision was “a great victory. It’s tempered by the fact that it’s not a permanent victory. The fight’s not over.”

Said Claflin: “The point is to stop it going through the reservation and to raise awareness of the greater issue of energy independence and sustainability as a community.

She said the group is preparing a presentation on members’ experiences at Standing Rock on an as-yet-determined date later this month.

Parker said that she didn’t know how long protesters would remain on the tribal land.

“I’m not in that loop,” she said.

“But we’ll probably stay here until the construction workers are gone, until it’s believable.”

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

Freelance write Diane Urbani de la Paz and Peninsula Daily News reporters Cydney McFarland and Chris McDaniel contributed to this story.

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