Protest becomes an occupation as pipeline foes stay put

For hundreds of environmental activists, fighting to put the Dakota Access pipeline project on ice was only the beginning.

Anywhere from 600 to 800 protesters have refused to heed the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman’s call to leave the southern North Dakota camps, braving bitter cold and record snow to build a permanent community as a base from which to fight the fossil fuel industry on a global scale.

Chase Iron Eyes, a camp leader, laid out an ambitious vision for the camps last week before the tribal council, saying the scope of the protest has grown to encompass Native American rights and a “demand for a clean energy economy.”

Another camp organizer, Paula Antoine, said the original drive to protect the tribe’s water supply represents “a movement for the water, for all human beings.”

“Now we have the backing of almost the entire world,” Ms. Antoine told the council at the Jan. 5 meeting. “This movement that began on Standing Rock does not belong to Standing Rock.”

A never-ending occupation wasn’t what tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II had in mind last year when he called for allies to join the tribe’s fight against running a small segment of the pipeline under Lake Oahe, about a half-mile from the reservation.

With the project now on hold, Mr. Archambault repeatedly has called for protesters to go home, citing concerns about human waste, garbage and crime stemming from the camps, as well as the out-of-state activists’ lack of familiarity with the area’s dangerously cold conditions.

“I don’t want that pipeline to go through. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt, I don’t want anyone to die, I don’t want any kids to get abused, I don’t want any elders to get abused, I don’t want any rapes to happen,” Mr. Archambault said in a Jan. 5 interview with the Daily Emerald, the University of Oregon student newspaper. “They don’t want any authority down there.”

For example, an activist from Las Vegas was arrested Jan. 6 for elder abuse after her 82-year-old mother was found in a camp zip-tied to a chair, sitting in her own urine and feces, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

In addition, Mr. Archambault said there’s no reason for protesters to remain given that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed Dec. 5 to pull its easement for the pipeline pending another environmental review.

Asked if he “genuinely” wants people to leave the camps, Mr. Archambault replied, “Yeah. There’s no purpose for it. What’s the purpose?”

Certainly LaDonna Allard has a purpose. Her Sacred Stone Camp already has morphed into an environmental juggernaut, partnering with groups on the national scene as it upgrades from a temporary protest enclave into a permanent “total green energy camp.”

The Sacred Stone camp is located on a mix of private and tribal property, which means it’s legal, unlike the makeshift tent-and-tipi cities squatting on federal land. And clearly the Sacred Stone has ample resources.

She told the tribal council that the camp recently bought 40 mobile-housing units, or yurts, and has invested in a cellphone tower, internet service, a modern kitchen, a snowplow and a school that opened Jan. 2. There are plans for an organic farm and three greenhouses.

Those investments came as a surprise to council members. “All this stuff you’re telling me is the first time I’ve heard it,” said Cody Two Bears, who represents the Cannonball district.

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