As DAPL Protesters Brace for Winter, Feds Say No Evictions From Encampment
'We're not leaving until we defeat this big black snake'
As protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline continue—as well as signs of solidarity—federal officials say they are not going to throw out protesters from an encampment where water protectors are ready to face increasing chilly temperatures to stop the four-state, fossil fuel project.
"We're not leaving until we defeat this big black snake," Cody Hall, a spokesman for the Oceti Sakowin Camp and member of South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said of Energy Transfer Partners' pipeline to the Associated Press.
That camp is an overflow from the Sacred Stone Camp, which swelled as more and more protesters joined the resistance.
"Oceti Sakowin," as Sarah Jaffe explained, "is the name for the Seven Council Fires, the political structure of what is known as the Great Sioux Nation." She described it as a "breathtaking sight" where "flags from well over 200 Native nations and international supporters line the driveway into the camp, flapping in the high plains wind."
However, it's on land claimed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the corps says the protestors don't have a permit to stay there. Still, as Forum News reported, it "has taken a hands-off approach as it tries to balance protesters' First Amendment rights[...] not to mention the rights of the rancher who has a grazing lease on the land and could be on the hook for any damage done to it."
"We don’t have the physical ability to go out and evict people—it gives the appearance of not protecting free speech,” AP reports corps spokeswoman Eileen Williamson as saying. "Our hands are really tied."
And if they do plan on staying, preparations are needed. Michael J. Dax wrote at YES! Magazine that as "Oceti Sakowin is set in the large, open floodplain of the Cannonball River, it will provide little shelter from winter winds." But already, as Jaffe wrote, "deliveries of blankets and warm clothing were constant, as was the chopping of wood for fires and discussion of what kinds of structures would allow the camps to stay in place through the bitter cold months ahead." Thirty-nine-year old Lakota Yuwitawin simply said, "We're native people. This is just what we do is survive."
Further south, protests are also continuing along the pipeline's route in Iowa, and on Saturday, 32 people were arrested and charged with trespassing after attempting to stop construction by tearing down a security fence around a boring site.
Praising ongoing resistance to stop the pipeline, 350.org’s Bill McKibben said to Democracy Now! last week, "They're holding the line against something that threatens not only their reservation, but threatens the whole planet."
McKibben's praise came as nearly 100 scientists denounced in an open letter the "inadequate environmental and cultural impact assessments" for the pipeline, "which is symptomatic of the United States' continued dependence on fossil fuels in the face of predicted broad-scale social and ecological impacts from global climate change."
One small section of the pipeline has been halted by the Obama administration, but the Dallas Morning News reports on Monday that "the fate of the project is still unknown."