Ultimatum at Standing Rock

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For a movement rooted in peace, prayer and a peoples connection to their ancestral lands, the Standing Rock Siouxs opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline has continued to face a shocking amount of violence at the hands of the Morton County Sheriffs Department and other officers deployed from North Dakota and elsewhere in the US. In their defense of the pipeline’s construction, policing costs have now topped $15 million and over 528 people have been arrested.  

Gruesome photos and details of a major altercation on November 20 included attacks mace, pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas. Police also unleashed water cannons on the unarmed activists in sub-zero temperatures as they attempted to clear a blockade between the Oceti Sakowin camp and the pipeline construction site on a road that also leads to the state capital, Bismarck. One of the water protectors, Sophia Wilansky, was struck directly on the arm by a concussion grenade. She is now in hospital undergoing multiple surgeries to her arm, from which the flesh was stripped to bone.

A group known as the Water Protector Legal Collective has launched a class action lawsuit against the Morton County Sheriffs Department and other police forces present on that night. The group accuses security forces of using excessive force and employing impact munitions such as rubber bullets, lead-filled beanbags, water cannons and hoses, explosive tear gas grenades and other chemical agents against protesters.”  

On November 25, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that on December 5 they would be moving to evacuate the resistance camp, just a day after a group of U.S. veterans planned to arrive to stand with First Nations and water protectors actively engaged in halting pipeline construction.


Today we were notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that on Dec. 5 they will close all lands north of the Cannonball River, which is where the Oceti Sakowin camp is located,said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II in an official release the day the news broke.

The letter states that the lands will be closed to public access for safety concerns and that they will allow for a free speech zonesouth of the Cannonball River on Army Corps lands. Our Tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever. The best way to protect people during the winter, and reduce the risk of conflicts between water protectors and militarized police, is to deny the easement for the Oahe crossing, and deny it now.


Since then, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told the Bismarck Tribune that it has no plans for forcible removalof the more than 5000 people staying in the Oceti Sakowin camp, though remaining there past December 5 would be at their own risk and subject them to the enforcement of federal, state and local law. Omaha District Commander Colonel John Henderson says they are simply encouraginga transition of the camp onto Sioux reservation land on the southern side of the river.

Meanwhile, North Dakota Governor Jack Darymple signed an executive order for an emergency evacuationof the demonstrators, claiming that the harsh winter conditions could potentially endanger human life.

Organizers representing the original camp of the Sacred Stone, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth responded succinctly, stating we will not be movedand stressing the fact that the camp is located on unceded treaty land. This state executive order is a menacing action meant to cause fear,said Archambault in response.

While the Standing Rock Sioux were calling on the Obama administration to intervene, in Canada, NDP MLA Wab Kinew made a statement in the Manitoba Legislature as he stood with a box of tobacco.

I stand with Standing Rock,he said. Traditional Indigenous people do not see Standing Rock as activism. For people who have heard the words mni wiconi[water is life] since birth, this is simply answering the call of duty. Though we may not all agree on how to fight climate change, we should all recognize the situation in North Dakota is a powerful lesson for us in how NOT to pursue reconciliation. In Standing Rock we see what can happen when development starts without the consent of Indigenous peoples.

In the week following press time it was announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied an easement for pipeline construction underneath Lake Oahe as they explore “alternative routes”, but Energy Transfers Ltd. has publicly stated that they still plan to go ahead with construction.


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