CANNON BALL, N.D. -- Celebrations, tears of joy, chanting and drumming rang out among thousands of protesters at the Standing Rock site after the Army Corp of Engineers announced it will look for an alternate route for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
But tribal leaders worry the decision to change the pipeline's direction might not be permanent as backers of the pipeline vowed to push the project ahead without any rerouting.
For months, members of the Sioux tribe and their supporters have camped out, fighting the pipeline they say could be hazardous and damage the water supply of their reservation nearby.
"People have said that this is a make it or a break it, and I guess we made it," Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, announced to a cheering crowd of protesters.
Grassroots activists, who have turned the protest site into a mini-city, prepared to withstand freezing temperatures during what was expected to be an even lengthier standoff, were cautious about the scope and durability of their victory.
"We are asking our supporters to keep up the pressure, because while President Obama has granted us a victory today, that victory isn't guaranteed in the next administration," Dallas Goldtooth, lead organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement.
"More threats are likely in the year to come, and we cannot stop until this pipeline is completely and utterly defeated, and our water and climate are safe."
Despite the White House's decision, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, the corporations behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, vowed to push ahead with a plan that had already received approval in federal court.
"Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way," the company said in a statement.
Why reroute the pipeline?
The Army Corps of Engineers said it will not grant a permit to allow the proposed pipeline to cross under the lake. Officials said after discussion with the tribe and Dakota Access it became clear that more work had to be done on the project.
"The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing," the corps' assistant secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said in a statement.
The decision comes three weeks after her office announced it was delaying the decision after protests from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters.
Darcy said the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an environmental impact statement with full public input and analysis, delivering both an immediate reprieve and political statement that could aid in future showdowns with President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration.