Protestors in North Dakota are celebrating a partial victory today, following the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to halt construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. Also celebrating are members of the Western New York’s Seneca Nation of Indians, though their leader is still cautious about the future.
A Monday afternoon Peace Walk on the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory wasn’t canceled following the Army Corps Engineers’ decision. The event is meant to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, and Seneca Nation President Todd Gates said events like the walk are still necessary, despite the decision to halt construction of the pipeline.
“I don’t think that’s going to stop it. The company that’s in charge of constructing that pipeline – I think they’re going to file an appeal and try to go forward.”
Given statements made by President-elect Donald Trump in support of the pipeline, Gates said he’s uncertain of how the project will progress. Whichever way it goes, he said the Seneca Nation will always support the Standing Rock Sioux.
“We have a long history with the Sioux Tribe out there. We’ve been out there for a long time. We have members of our own council that, even our former President Maurice John – his wife is Lakota from Pine Ridge. So we have connections out there and long-standing relationships that we maintain.”
Members of the Seneca Nation showing support for the Standing Rock at home in Irving have been seeing support from non-Native local organizations like the Sierra Club and Riverkeeper. The Senecas have also sent residents and first responders to aid protestors on the front lines in Cannonball, North Dakota.
“When you go out there, they tell you that they don’t want to see anybody hurt,” said Gates. “That’s been the main thrust of everything that they’ve been doing in trying to keep it that way.”
Gates said the cause is not just about showing support for his tribe’s native brethren, but about protecting what he believes to be our most precious resource.
“One day in the not too distant future, I think water is going to become more precious than the oil that they’ve been trying to ship. I still believe that. We’ve got to protect our water. Everybody needs water. We don’t need oil. We need water.”