The Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota continues to protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens to contaminate local water sources and infringes upon the sovereignty of indigenous peoples on sacred Native American land. The protest is supported by hundreds of outside individuals who have travelled to Cannonball, North Dakota in order to camp, pray and protest with Standing Rock, including three New College students.
On Friday, Nov. 26, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a letter to the tribe announcing that their camp would be closed as of Dec. 5, and that anyone on the camp after that date would be considered trespassing and subject to prosecution. According to NPR, a section of land south of the river that is being protected will be open to protest, referred to by the Army Corps as a “free-speech zone”. The Army Corps positions this closure as a way of ensuring the safety of all involved as the weather grows harsher.
Second-years Miriam Carlson, Ximena Pedroza and Kayla Kisseadoo travelled to Standing Rock this last week in solidarity. Pedroza delivered an update on Facebook over Thanksgiving, stating that over 10,000 people travelled to the protest this week, with over 800 tribes from all nations in participation. On Thanksgiving, there were fears that the National Guard would pursue a raid of the camp.
“Yesterday, during an action the Morton Sheriff police department did not allow us to move forward and pray with our brothers and sisters that were harmed during Sunday evening’s action. Let the people everywhere know the truth of what is happening,” Pedroza wrote on Facebook.
It is reported that protesters are being sprayed with water cannons by militarized police forces in below freezing temperatures. The Guardian also reports the use of rubber bullets, tasers, pepper spray, tear gas and other allegedly “less-than-lethal” methods by police officers in full riot gear. Sophia Wilansky, a protester from New York, may lose her arm after being hit by a police concussion grenade. This marks the most grievous bodily injury yet, though a widespread media blackout of Standing Rock could mean worse and more numerous injuries have occurred.
As it gets colder and the number of protestors rise, members of Standing Rock are seeking donations through an Amazon wishlist that is frequently updated with requests for items like sleeping bags, warm weather clothing, heavy-duty tarps and media equipment.
At this time, it is unclear exactly how protestors will move forward with the demands to leave the camp. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman David Archambault II released a statement highlighting the irony of the demand occurring the day after Thanksgiving.
“Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the treatment of our people,” Archambault said.
“ We have suffered much, but we still have hope that the President will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people and especially our children.”