The company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has resumed construction on the controversial project despite massive protests and legal battles.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) spokesperson Vicki Granado on Thursday confirmed that the company began working on the much-disputed 1.5-mile Lake Oahe section immediately after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the final easement late Wednesday.
Water protectors in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, who have resisted the pipeline's construction for months, vowed to keep fighting.
"It's not over," Stephanie Big Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux tribe, told the Guardian. "This is my ancestral treaty lands where my people have always been. I have to be out here."
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, founder of Sacred Stone—the first opposition camp set up at the construction site—said ETP was "already ready to drill," and that the fight against DAPL has taken on global significance.
"It's not about Standing Rock anymore, it's about the world," she said. "No matter what happens, even as they're drilling as we talk, we must all stand up for the water."
Brandy-Lee Maxie, a 34-year-old Nakota tribe member from Canada, warned, "If we just stand down, that sets a precedent for other pipelines—that they are allowed to go to Indian land and just take it."
"We have the world watching," she added, "and people are coming back."
The Lake Oahe section is the final portion of the 1,172-mile pipeline to be built. Former President Barack Obama had instructed the corps to conduct a full environmental review of the project, which opponents say violates Indigenous treaty rights and threatens access to clean water for millions of people.
But President Donald Trump issued a memorandum that advised expediting the process, and moreover has taken office with a promise to favor the fossil fuel industry and revive DAPL and the Keystone XL pipeline. The corps canceled the environmental review after approving the easement.
Hours after the army's notice to Congress was issued, the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe asked a federal court in Washington, D.C. to block it and issue an injunction.
"The granting of the easement and resulting construction activity violates the tribe's and its members' constitutional rights, and will result in immediate and irreparable harm to the tribe and its members before this court will be able to rule on the merits of this claim," the tribe argued.
The Standing Rock Sioux has also vowed legal action, having previously warned that following Trump's order would violate federal law, while protests are taking place nationwide and divestment campaigns urging cities to pull their funds from DAPL-funding banks make headway.
If the process is not delayed, DAPL could be operational within three months.