A decision by the federal government sparked cheers of joy among protesters fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps on Sunday said it was denying easements for the project. Construction has stopped, pending further environmental review. The news brought a smile to the face of one member of the Standing Rock Sioux, here in the Northwest.
Ace Baker lives on the Swinomish Reservation in Western Washington, but he grew up on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
He said the news floored him.
"Well honestly the first thing I thought was, I hope this is true as it was kind of hard to believe," Baker said.
But then he and his family celebrated - there were lots of high fives and tears in the Baker household on Sunday night.
Followed by some thoughts about the future. The militarized police presence at Standing Rock has strained relations between tribal members and surrounding white communities - many of whom support the pipeline.
"How’s it going to be for repairing relationships? John and Jane Smith walking down the street and seeing so-and-so from the reservation. I hope everything’s going to turn out but it’s still a long way to go," Baker said.
Baker says he experienced racism growing up on the rez in North Dakota. He and his wife chose to raise their kids in Washington State because he says people here tend to be more progressive and tribes are better respected.
Tribes from around the country, alongside activists of all races, have been camping on the North Dakota plains for months - in some pretty harsh conditions.
Baker spent several weeks at the protest camps. Now he’s home in Washington, celebrating from afar, but he says his heart is at Standing Rock with his people.
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