On Campus

Students at Syracuse University celebrate Dakota Access Pipeline reroute announcement

Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

Law enforcement releases tear gas to disperse the crowd of nonviolent water protectors gathered at the barricade to the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on Nov. 20. The United States Army Corps of Engineers rejected the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir on Sunday.

Syracuse University students who oppose the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline are excited about the news of the current pipeline route being denied Sunday evening.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers rejected the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir, according to The Associated Press.

Since April, the Sioux people have been protesting the pipeline that would stretch from Three Forks, North Dakota, to Pakota, Illinois, to transport domestically produced crude oil. The Sioux are objecting the pipeline because it would be built through the tribe’s ancestral lands and jeopardize sacred places, according to the Stand with Standing Rock website.

A number of SU community members joined protesters at Standing Rock Native American Reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota during Thanksgiving break. More than 300 people marched against the construction of the pipeline for about six miles in downtown Syracuse in November.

“This is awesome. It’s amazing,” said Cody Jock, a junior political science major and one of the organizers of a march against the construction of the pipeline that is going to take place Monday. “It’s something that I don’t think any of us had expected to happen, especially this soon.”

The march, called SU Stands With Standing Rock and sponsored by Indigenous Students at Syracuse, will start in front of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at 11:30 a.m. on Monday. Jock said despite the news, he is intending to carry out the march to show support  and bring attention to the issue.

Jock also said people still need to stay wary and vigilant of what might happen ahead — whether the pipeline will be rerouted or the construction project is scrapped altogether. He also stressed a possibility of backward deals that this announcement may be an attempt to remove protesters in the reservation. There also needs to be accountability for law enforcement who harassed protestors, he said.

“This fight is not over. It’s far from over,” he said. “We’ve got still a lot of work to do.”

Garet Bleir, a junior magazine journalism and marketing dual major, was in disbelief at first when he heard the news. Bleir, who opposes the pipeline and who protested over break, described the experience as emotional and meaningful that efforts to oppose the pipeline put together by many people have paid off. Like Jock, however, Bleir said he remains “cautiously optimistic.”

Kacey Chopito, a sophomore history major, traveled with Jock to North Dakota. Chopito is a member of the New Mexican Zuni tribe.

“It was so surreal,” Chopito said, recalling the Morton County Sheriff’s Department using a water cannon to douse protesters, who call themselves water protectors, on Nov. 20 and 21.

He added that he thinks demonstrations and protests that are held across the country and not just in Standing Rock are important because they spread education about indigenous peoples.

Chopito is excited about the march at SU and is planning to attend it, even after the corps’ recent announcement.

“It’s a huge victory,” Chopito said. “I think it’s great that the federal government has done this … it can obviously change come January, but the biggest takeaway is that they have to do an environmental survey now and that is going to take months.”

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, a member of a tribe in the Navajo nation and an SU graduate student studying magazine, newspaper and online journalism, recently traveled to Standing Rock twice. She is also looking forward to the march. Despite the rejection of the pipeline’s initial intended path, on Sunday evening she was quickly creating signs for the event.

“It is a huge victory, but you know, it’s a small victory in the continued oppression against indigenous people,” Bennett-Begaye said.

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