Police surrounded the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock on Wednesday, arresting the first of the remaining water protectors as the latter called for solidarity and vowed to continue resistance against the US$3 billion Dakota Access Pipeline re-approved by President Donald Trump.
In a parting gesture, the water protectors gathered to sing a victory song. “We want to walk out with dignity. We understand that this is not a defeat but a victory,” an unseen water protector says during a live recording.
“Everyone here is in violation of the governor’s orders … You will be arrested,” a police officer is heard saying to the crowd, as the water protesters yell, “We are not going to leave.”
On Tuesday, the Army Corps of Engineers refused to extend Wednesday’s eviction deadline set by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum last week, citing concerns about flooding.
However most involved in the water protection camp — which, since its founding last April, has galvanized millions in the fight for Indigenous sovereignty and the battle against pipelines — say the move is simply a ruse to end the movement.
“This is a message of intimidation,” one water protector told The Intercept.
“After the deadline we are all at risk of facing arrest, police brutality, federal charges and prison time,” says one of the unnamed women in the video
“In the history of colonization, they’ve always given us two options,” says another. “Give up our land or go to jail, give up our rights or go to jail. And now, give up our water, or go to jail. We are not criminals.”
“They’ve been trying to take us down for hundreds of years,” another woman says. “They can keep trying, and we’re still going to be here, and we need help. There aren’t many of us left.”
“They don’t understand people are willing to die here,” one 90-year-old woman told The Intercept. “They don’t understand we will not back down. We have our ancestors with us and we are in prayer that Tunkashila (Great Spirit in Lakota) will guide us in our freedom.”
The neighboring Sacred Stone Camp, which is on land owned by Stand Rock Sioux Tribe member LaDonna Allard, was also issued an eviction notice last week by the Bureau of Indian Affairs which claims jurisdiction on the land, despite the fact that the camp had been endorsed in a vote by the Standing Rock Sioux council back in June.
Despite the expected eviction, those remaining at the camp and their allies were defiant that the fight against the pipeline isn’t over.
The Indigenous Environmental Network issued a statement on their Facebook page calling on people to join a massive March 5 action planned for Washington, D.C., in protest of the pipeline project.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Indigenous grassroots leaders call on our allies across the U.S. and around the world to peacefully March on Washington, D.C.,” the statement said. “This movement has evolved into a powerful global phenomenon highlighting the necessity to respect Indigenous nations and their right to protect their homeland, environment, and future generations. For those who cannot march with us, we ask that you take peaceful action at home in your tribal nations, states, cities, town, villages, and provinces,” it concluded.
“The whole movement isn’t over,” said a water protector in an IEN video.