Corps gives eviction notice to Dakota Access protest camp
BISMARCK -- The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has set a deadline of Dec. 5 for the eviction of the Oceti Sakowin camp for people protesting the Dakota Access pipeline from corps-owned land. Anyone there after that date will be subject to trespass...
BISMARCK - The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has set a deadline of Dec. 5 for the eviction of the Oceti Sakowin camp for people protesting the Dakota Access pipeline from corps-owned land. Anyone there after that date will be subject to trespassing charges.
Col. John Henderson, Omaha district commander, in an email Friday to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said the corps is establishing a free speech zone on the south side of the Cannonball River as the main overflow camp on corps land on the north side of the river must be disbanded.
"Our Tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever," said Archambault, who is asking pipeline opponents to continue to fight the pipeline's permitting process.
Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said about 5,000 to 7,000 people are in the camp, a substantial increase since Sunday, when a confrontation between pipeline protesters and law enforcement led to many being treated for hypothermia after being sprayed with fire hoses and emergency hospital care for others, including a woman whose arm may have to be amputated for injuries that are still under investigation.
The camp was established in August, after the Dakota Access Pipeline crew moved toward its Missouri River/Lake Oahe crossing site just north of the reservation. The tribe is in federal court, claiming the corps failed to follow federal law and properly consult the tribe amid concerns the 570,000-barrel capacity pipeline could break and pollute a primary source of drinking water.
Goldtooth said there's not enough land on the south side of the river where many are already camping and a planned winter camp on 50 acres of reservation land near Cannon Ball is not yet ready, with groundbreaking set next week.
"There's no other space that can take people right now. This is a stupid, foolish act by the corps. I'm fairly sure that law enforcement would be just as concerned," Goldtooth said.
People in the camp are living without electricity or running water in an array of teepees, tents, yurts and other structures.
Goldtooth said the eviction deadline is timed for the day after more than 2,000 American war veterans are scheduled to be at the camp to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock.
Henderson said the decision is necessary to protect the general public from the confrontations between protesters and law enforcement and to prevent death or serious injuries to the protesters. He said the Oceti Sakowin camp is also on land leased for grazing.
"To be clear, this means that no member of the general public, to include Dakota Access Pipeline protesters, can be on these lands," said Henderson, who urged Archambault to encourage tribal members and supporters to move to the free speech zone or a more sustainable location for the winter.
"I am genuinely concerned for the safety and well-being of both the members of your tribe and the general public located at these encampments," Henderson said.
The corps has been under pressure from state officials to move the protesters off its land.
Goldtooth said, if the corps wants to "wash its hands" of the issue, it would be better to deny the easement for Dakota Access that's currently preventing the company from boring underneath the Missouri River/Lake Oahe to connect the pipeline that's mostly completed otherwise.
"They should deny the easement and look at the facts and order a full environmental impact statement. It's ridiculous to order the eviction of 5,000 to 7,000 people who have moral and treaty rights to be there," Goldtooth said.