By Glynn Wilson –
Apparently the Obama administration has quitely made its decision during the Thanksgiving holiday to close the Standing Rock Sioux encampment where hundreds of Native Americans and environmental activists have staged protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline just north of Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
The camp was the staging area from where a number of “water protecters” were injured Sunday night while trying to intervene in work by the pipeline company in the middle of the night in subfreezing temperatures on Blackwater Bridge.
A statement about the camp closure was leaked apparently from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the tribe before it was posted on the agency’s website. It says the plan is to shut down the camp by December 5 in order to “protect the public” amid violent confrontations between protesters and law enforcement.
Russian TV reported this by linking to a Twitter Tweet from Jordan Chariton, a political reporter with the Young Turks. According to a jpeg image in the tweet, the Corps says it is “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 confrontation 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 statement continues.
The Corps had established “a free speech zone on land south of the Cannoball River for anyone wished to peaceably protest the Dakota Access pipeline project,” according to the statement. Anyone found on the Corps’ land north of the Cannonball River after December 5, it says, “will be considered trespassing and may be subject to prosecution under federal, state and local laws.”
It also said anyone staying on the lands would do so “at their own risk, and assume any and all corresponding liabilities for their unlawful presence and occupations of such lands.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued a statement in response expressing how “deeply disappointed” they were and asked once again for the U.S. government to stop the pipeline and move it oustide ancestral and treaty lands.
“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,” says Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II. “Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the mistreatment of our people.”
The tribe says “the best way to protect people during the winter, and reduce the risk of conflict between water protecters and militerized police, is to deny the easement for the Oahu crossing…”
The last official word out of Washington on this was an indication that the tribe won another construction delay a couple of weeks back when the Obama administration announced it would put off granting an easement for the pipeline to traverse the river until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts a further environmental review with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The notice about the camp closure comes a week after 26 people were injured and taken to hospitals during clashes at the pipeline site Sunday and more than 200 were reportedly treated for hypothermia after Morton County Sheriff’s Department deployed water cannon in below-freezing temperatures.
Since the Spring, protesters have been standing in opposition to the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline by setting up camps and blocking roads in North Dakota to stop the completion of the pipeline.
Among the injured was Sophia Wilansky, who nearly lost her arm when a law enforcement officer threw a concussion grenade at her that exploded.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol said law enforcement officers were not responsible for Wilansky’s injury.
“We are aware of the information about the woman on social media who has claimed she sustained injuries to her arm due to law enforcement tactics. The injuries sustained are inconsistent with any resources utilized by law enforcement and are not a direct result of any tools or weapons used by law enforcement,” according to North Dakota Highway Patrol Lieutenant Tom Iverson. “This incident remains under investigation by the North Dakota BCI and ATF. Additional details will be released as the investigation progresses.”
Another woman, Vanessa Dundon, an Apache woman, was injured during the confrontation on November 20 at the Backwater Bridge when she was shot in the eye with a tear gas canister by the Sheriff’s Department. She suffered a detached retina and needs surgery to ensure her vision according to a GoFundMe appeal set up for her medical fund.
The Army Corps of Engineers decision to declare some land off limits to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is the latest move in centuries of treaty violations, according to the tribe.
For more than 150 years the federal government has taken land from Lakota and Dakota people according to tribal leaders, beginning with the seizure of land in the Black Hills of South Dakota after the discovery of gold in the 1870s, “to the construction of dams in the Missouri River that flooded villages, timber land and farmland in the Dakotas in the 1950s.”
“This government honors international treaties like they are the Holy Grail, but within our own homeland they find a way to break,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault told the Denver Post. Under the treaties and American law, Archambault is the head of a domestic sovereign nation.
As we reported eariler, a veterans group has planned to deploy to the camp by Dec. 4 and had raised more than $200,000 on a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of the trip. No word on whether they will speed up their plans or cancel and give donors refunds.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.