The United States Army Corps of Engineers has told Dakota Access pipeline protestors occupying (reclaiming?) the Oceti Sakowin Camp to move it or lose it. In an official letter yesterday to Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, District Commander John W. Henderson says the federal land north of the Cannonball River in North Dakota will be off-limits to the public as of December 5:
Pursuant to 36 C.F.R. § 327.12, I am closing the portion of the Corps-managed federal property north of the Cannonball River to all public use and access effective December 5, 2016. This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions. The necessary emergency, medical, and fire response services, law enforcement, or sustainable facilities to protect people from these conditions on this property cannot be provided [Colonel John W. Henderson, Corps of Engineers, letter to Chairman Dave Archambault II, 2016.11.25]….
Hmmm… the violent confrontations and serious injury appear to come largely from the state attacking peaceful protestors. The water protectors are doing a fair job of raising money and collecting provisions for their peaceful, prayerful, and practical winter camp; stop blasting them with water cannons in sub-freezing weather, and they’ll probably make it through the winter just fine. They don’t need the government to help them withstand harsh conditions to fight for what’s right… but if the government can mobilize hundreds of militarized law enforcement personnel from multiple states and millions of dollars to protect a pipeline, they could probably send a few truckloads of supplies to help the human beings on the ground. The government obviously has water trucks available….
Of course, Chariman Archambault proposes the surest way to protect all parties involved:
The best way to protect people during the winter, and reduce the risk of conflict between water protectors and militarized police, is to deny the easement for the Oahe crossing, and deny it now [Chairman Dave Archambault, public response to Corps of Engineers letter, 2016.11.25]
Colonel Henderson isn’t shutting the protest down; he’s just moving them off federal land to a “free speech zone” south of the river:
The Corps of Engineers has established a free speech zone on land south of the Cannonball River for anyone wishing to peaceably protest the Dakota Access pipeline project, subject to the rules of 36 C.F.R. Part 327. In these areas, jurisdiction for police, fire, and medical response is better defined making it a more sustainable area for visitors to endure the harsh North Dakota winter [Henderson to Archambault, 2016.11.25].
South of the Cannonball River takes the protestors farther away from where the Dakota Access pipeline will make its second crossing of the Missouri River.
Chairman Archambault calls on Americans to recover the supposed spirit of Thanksgiving, call the President, and appeal this decision:
It is both unfortunate and disrespectful that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving—a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe. Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the mistreatment of our people. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe stands united with more than 300 tribal nations and the water protectors who are here peacefully protesting the Dakota access pipeline to bolster indigenous people’s rights. We continue to fight for these rights, which continue to be eroded. Although we have suffered much, 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 [Archambault, 2016.11.25].
Archambault and his allies are at best playing for time; come January 20, the new President and shameless stockholder in Dakota Access will undoubtedly order completion of the pipeline, without regard to treaty rights or water quality.