Dakota access pipeline protest organizers say they will remain at Oceti Sakowin camp: We are wardens of this land
Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters will not follow a government directive to leave the federal land where hundreds have camped for months, organizers said on Saturday, despite state officials encouraging them to do so.
At a press conference, Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault and other protest organizers confidently explained that they would stay at the Oceti Sakowin camp and continue with nonviolent protests, a day after Archambault received a letter from the US army corps of engineers that said all federal lands north of the Cannonball river would be closed to public access 5 December over safety concerns.
The corps cited the coming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters who believe the pipeline could harm drinking water and Native American cultural sites and police.
We are wardens of this land. This is our land and they cant remove us, said Issac Weston, a protester and Oglala Sioux member from South Dakota. We have every right to be here to protect our land and to protect our water.
The vast majority of the several hundred people fighting against the four-state, $3.8bn pipeline have created a self-sustaining community at the sprawling camp, which is on corps land in southern North Dakota, and have put up semi-permanent structures or brought motor homes and trailers in advance of the harsh winter.
On the unseasonably warm Saturday, people were chopping wood and setting up tents at the encampment, which is more than a mile from a Missouri river reservoir where the final large segment of the pipeline is yet to be completed, due to the corps consulting with the tribe. Authorities had set up a staging area about a mile away on a hill overlooking the site.
Dallas Goldtooth, a protest organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the situation was an atrocious example that colonization has not ended for us here as indigenous people and that the governments request would escalate already rocky tensions.
Representatives from the army corps of engineers didnt immediately return multiple messages seeking comment and verification of the letter. Last month, the corps said it would not evict the encampment, which started as overflow from smaller private and permitted protest sites nearby and began growing in August.
Barack Obama raised the possibility of rerouting the pipeline in that area earlier this month, something Kelcy Warren, chief executive of the Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners, said was not an option from the companys standpoint. Obama said his administration was monitoring the challenging situation but would let it play out for several more weeks.
Some of the protests have resulted in violent confrontations one woman suffered a serious arm injury last weekend and more than 500 people have been arrested since August.
The corps letter, according to Archambault, said that those who stay on the land after 5 December might be prosecuted, and that there would be a free speech zone south of the river.
Archambault said Saturday that he did not believe the corps would forcibly evict people from the camp, adding that the tribe was working to provide protesters protection from the elements on its reservation, which is south of the Cannonball river, but offered few details.
It is the federal governments job to peacefully close the camp because it allowed people to stay there in the first place, Governor Jack Dalrymple said in a statement Saturday.
Our state and local law enforcement agencies continue to do all they can to keep private property and public infrastructure free from unpermitted protest activities, and its past time that the federal government provides the law enforcement resources … to enforce their own order to vacate, the Republican said.
Republican US senator John Hoeven and Democratic US senator Heidi Heitkamp said the protesters need to move for public safety.
The well-being and property of ranchers, farmers and everyone else living in the region should not be threatened by protesters who are willing to commit acts of violence, Hoeven said in a statement Friday. He also called on the Obama administration to let work on the pipeline move forward, saying: This difficult situation has gone on too long and we need to get it resolved.
Heitkamp said the corps order was a needed step to support the safety of residents, workers, protesters and law enforcement.