Against the backdrop of continued protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline's construction through sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, the Obama administration announced it canceled a lease for oil drilling on the Blackfeet tribe's land in Montana. The decision is a settlement with Devon Energy, which had the lease on land considered scared to the native tribe.
“This is the right action to take on behalf of current and future generations,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement, reports The Washington Post. The move protects the “rich cultural and natural resources and recognizes the irreparable impacts that oil and gas development would have on them.”
The land leased to Devon Energy bordered parts of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Devon will receive a refund of $206,058.
“A lot of our creation stories emanate from this area. It’s a significant area, it always has been for thousands of years,” said Harry Barnes, chairman of the Blackfeet Nation Tribal Business Council. “While we’re not opposed to oil and gas exploration, we are opposed to oil and gas exploration in that area.”
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He added that the decision is a “victory for not only the Blackfeet people, but for all of America. It’s such a beautiful area. It’s Mother Earth, and it needs to be enjoyed by everybody.”
On Nov. 14, the Army Corps of Engineers put a halt to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, notes NBC News.
The corps stated that construction of the pipeline beneath the Missouri River would not commence until further analysis and input from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was given.
The pipeline has been at the center of weeks of protests, which have been viewed around the world.
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Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, noted, “The whole world is watching and where they see prayerful, peaceful resistance, they join us."