The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the protesters at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation until Monday to leave the property. Four months of tear gas, water cannons, police confrontations and prayer marching leaves the protesters with the ultimatum of vacating the premises or be fined for trespassing. Though it is said that the land should belong to the Standing Rock Sioux, the property the protesters currently occupy is federal land.
Despite the cold and the threats coming from the Army Corps and the North Dakota governor’s office, the people are standing firm. Tents, tepee, and lodges are sprouting up all around the property. Thousands of people like veterans, tribal members, and even celebrities have gathered over the last four months to try and put a stop to the Dakota Access pipeline. However, as President Obama’s term quickly creeps to an end, along with the deadline to vacate the property, things don’t appear to be looking too well for protesters.
Activists and tribal members are attempting to get President Obama to block the Dakota Access project by filing an environmental review before leaving office, which should tie up the project for some time. The Standing Rock Sioux are concerned about water contamination from an oil spill that will end up polluting their water supply, the Missouri River. The laying of the pipeline would also run through sacred tribal burial grounds. These fears of water contamination have spurred clean water activist from all over to come join the fight. President-elect Donald Trump announced on Friday that he is in complete support of the completion of the $3.7 billion pipeline project.
Law enforcement and the Army Corps said while they will not forcibly remove people from the property, they are hoping that protesters and activists can make a “peaceful and orderly transition” off federal property and to a “free speech zone”. Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II is seeking investigation of the rights violations that many of the protesters faced at the hands of law enforcement. He believes that the use of rubber bullets and the spraying of freezing water onto “water protectors” was unnecessary.
However, Sheriff Kirchmeier denounced that saying that, “The protesters are forcing police and us into taking action. They’re committing criminal activities.” He and law enforcement are also disapproving of the federal government’s lack of involvement I the whole issue. They claim that not only did the federal government not offer much in the ways of manpower or funds, but that the entire protest has cost Morton County over $8 million.
Despite all the efforts of the North Dakota government and law enforcement, support and supplies have managed to keep protesters and activists going. Even though police blockades were set up, supply trucks managed to make it to the camp with wood, bottled water, and food. Pottawatomie member Cusi Ballew said, “What’s important isn’t how we’re doing it but why we’re doing it. We’re here for prayer and for action.”