Last week, Gov. Doug Burgum
signed an emergency evacuation order of the property to allow private contractors to remove waste from the Oceti Sakowin camp area, which officials say is in floodplain. Burgum’s order comes as the project moves closer to completion after the US Army Corps of Engineers recently granted
an easement for the last stretch of the 1,172-mile-long pipeline bitterly opposed by Native Americans and environmentalists.
The day before the deadline, nearly all the yurts were gone at the Oceti Sakowin camp. Some teepees were stripped to the poles and the landscape was a muddy mess, with heaps of trash in some areas. Many protesters have left but a select few who refused to budge said they don’t believe the fight is over.
“I’m not going anywhere. I carry a knife with me all the time. But I am handing that over so that I have no weapons on me. I will stay and pray even if they come to remove us,” Valerie Armstrong, 36, of Sherman, Texas, said Tuesday.
Instead of leaving, Armstrong was busy building a tiny wooden house.
“We are building our fortress of solitude,” Dedman said.
He said the barrier they were building was to keep sheriff’s deputies, as well as the Department of Indian Affairs out.
“We are keeping out all the evil. If you want to talk about it in a spiritual way, its keeping out all the negativity,” Dedman said.
Pipeline is moving forward
The $3.7 billion pipeline is slated to stretch through four states — from North Dakota into South Dakota, winding through Iowa and ending in southern Illinois. It is expected to move 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day across the Midwest. The project is completed except for the contested portion under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, half a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members are concerned the once-stalled project would affect its drinking water supply and place downstream communities at risk of contamination from potential oil spills.
The pipeline moved forward last month after President Donald Trump signed executive actions
advancing its approval. Trump’s actions cast aside efforts by former President Barack Obama to block the pipeline’s construction.
Soon after, the Corps granted the easement. The move was enthusiastically greeted two weeks ago by Energy Partners, the pipeline’s developer. The company has said it’s ready to move proceed.
But the Standing Rock Tribe and its allies claimed then that the easement shouldn’t have been granted without the issuance of an expected environmental impact statement or EIS for short.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said they plan to argue that environmental impact statement process was wrongfully terminated.
Burgum’s order to evacuate isn’t the first mandate to leave the camp.
Last fall, protesters also vowed
to stand their ground despite growing calls for them to leave. Then Gov. Jack Dalrymple ordered them to clear out immediately, citing the harsh winter conditions.
At the time, the Corps of Engineers also said activists who refused to leave could face arrest. Officials later backtracked, saying they had no plans to forcibly remove those who stayed.
Earlier this month, the US Army Corps of Engineers also ordered people to leave to prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the event of flooding.