Strategic Differences, Expected Flooding, Complicate DAPL Opposition

A number of people had versions of the U.S. flag flying upside down, an officially recognized signal of distress.
At the Oceti Sakowin Camp last year, many had U.S. flags flying upside down, an officially recognized signal of distress.

The federal government is giving water protectors less than three weeks to clear out their camps due to concerns the Cannon Ball River will flood the camp during the spring melt.

Meanwhile, strategic differences among Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) opponents threatens the cohesion of the movement. The Standing Rock Sioux Nation will continue its fight in court and is organizing a March on Washington but has asked water protectors to decamp. Other groups, including the Sacred Stones Camp and a veterans group, vow to continue to have a physical presence opposing DAPL.

Here is the latest.

Flooding Fears

In the story Federal government moves to close protest camps, the Bismarck Tribune reported Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given notice to the camps that they have to clear off the federal land by Feb. 22.

In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs pledged its support in helping the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe close the protest camps within its reservation boundaries. …

The Oceti Sakowin camp is being closed in anticipation of flooding that could cause injury and environmental damage, according to the corps. … The notices are unrelated to the Army’s ongoing full review and analysis of the pipeline easement, according to the corps.

Tactical Disagreements Among DAPL Opposition: How Will it Affect the Movement?

The Standing Rock Nation voted in January to close the water protectors camps. (See earlier blog.) While Standing Rock is pursuing legal challenges to the project, other groups continue to state their intention to keep a physical presence opposing the pipeline.

A Friday headline in the Huffington Post said it all: Veterans vs. Trump: Pipeline Will Never Be Built, Warriors Vow: “It’s not happening on our watch.”

Veterans Stand, a group of vets who have vowed to protect the pipeline protesters of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and supporters, ominously threatened the possibility of more “boots on the ground” at the site — but also repeated their commitment to nonviolent action. The group is capable of calling up several thousand veterans to the protest site.

However, what will Veterans Stand respond to the Standing Rock Nation’s request to stand down?

Similarly, the Sacred Stones Camp put out a call Jan. 31 saying “We need your help,” asking people to come if they could. Their call is complicated by the fact that their camp is on Standing Rock Reservation land and from what is available in the media, it does not appear Standing Rock leaders would support this action.

The call from Sacred Stones Camp included statements from several Native leaders:

Dallas Goldtooth, Campaign Organizer, Indigenous Environmental Network, “The Trump administration seems hell-bent on returning to the times of the wild west frontier, where lawlessness reigned supreme and Indigenous Peoples and our rights were on the chopping block. By attempting to approve this easement, the administration’s actions reveal a blatant disregard for the rule of law and a clear interest in lining the pockets of Big Oil. Now he is working even harder to attack sovereign tribal nations and historic treaties. Come what may, we have drawn our line in the dirt, we are here to defend mother earth and our inherent rights as the first peoples of the land.”

Part of this discord seems to have been stirred up by a statement Tuesday by U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), who said the DAPL easement’s final approval was days away. His statements provoked a lot of response, but has yet to prove true. Indian Country Today journalists have begun to ask if Hoeven was misled, or was intentionally misleading in his statements. (See earlier blog.)

On Wednesday, Feb. 1, a separate group of water protectors tried to set up a new camp, the Last Child Camp, on higher ground (and on private land). Their action was met with the immediate arrest of 76 people, including Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota Peoples Law Project. It was an effort to claim treaty rights under what is known as the “Unceded Territory.” He is been charged not only with criminal trespass but inciting a riot, according to the Bismarck Tribune article.

Also arrested was Jenni Monet, an Indian Country Media Network journalist who said she got trapped in the crowd. She, too, is being charged with trespass and engaging in a riot, according to Indian Country Today.

As we wrote earlier, the Standing Rock Nation has distanced itself from Wednesday’s action. According to a story in the Bismarck Tribune:

“This group’s actions do not represent the tribe nor the original intent of the water protectors,” Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement Wednesday night. … instead of empowering us, it undermines us.”

March on Washington

The Facebook Page for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation announced Wednesday that leaders are in the early stages of a March on Washington, tentatively set for Friday, March 10. Check back with the Facebook page for details.

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