This week, authorities shut down a camp near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation where demonstrators have been protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline since August.
Once home to thousands of protesters, the camp was made up of just 200 self-described “water protectors” in its final weeks. The state offered bus tickets, hotel vouchers, and meal vouchers to those who peacefully vacated the site, and most left voluntarily before Wednesday’s 2 p.m. deadline.
“This is not the government’s land. This is our land. This is treaty land,” Raymond Kingfisher of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, said Wednesday as demonstrators prepared to evacuate. “This is why we’re still here to the very last second.”
The Army Corps of Engineers said the camp needed to be evacuated before snow melts, flooding the land and sending accumulated debris into nearby waterways. In the hours after this video was shot, National Guardsmen and police in riot gear arrested dozens of protestors that remained, the AP reported.
Protestors say that the planned $3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline threatens to contaminate the sole source of water for the Standing Rock Sioux. The oil pipeline will cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, as it wends its way more than 1,100 miles from North Dakota’s oil fields to a refinery in Illinois.
In December, the Army Corps of Engineers halted the project, promising to conduct an environmental review and study possible alternate routes. But shortly after he took office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for approval of the pipeline, which the Army Corps of Engineers granted earlier this month.
Until recently, Trump owned stock in the company building the pipeline — Energy Transfer Partners. The firm’s CEO, Kelcy Warren, donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund.
Demonstrations against the controversial pipeline have earned the support of environmentalists, military veterans and more than 100 Native American tribes. As water protectors at Standing Rock faced down tear gas and rubber bullets, protestors took to the streets in dozens of cities across the country in a show of solidarity. Recently, Seattle, WA and Davis, CA joined the opposition by divesting from Wells Fargo, one of the banks backing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Activists are pushing Los Angeles to do the same.
Lawyers representing the developer say the pipeline could come online as early as next month, but it’s profitability remains in question. A recent report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis notes that low oil prices have led to a downturn in oil production, which could render the Dakota Access project redundant due to existing pipeline infrastructure.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe — which, like the Standing Rock Sioux, rely on the Missouri River for clean water — are still pushing to block the project, arguing that it threatens to contaminate water used in religious ceremonies. They will present their case to a district court next week.