UPDATE: Late Sunday, the USACE modified its original statement after consultation with tribal leaders and issued a new statement saying it has no intention of forcibly removing occupants of the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.
"The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location, and has no plans for forcible removal. But those who choose to stay do so at their own risk as emergency, fire, medical, and law enforcement response cannot be adequately provided in these areas. Those who remain will be considered unauthorized and may be subject to citation under federal, state, or local laws."
In a shocking but not entirely surprising move, given the escalation of violence at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has issued what amounts to an eviction notice to Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault. In an email dated November 25, District Commander John W. Henderson says that safety is a priority, among other concerns, and that the portion of the Corps-managed federal
property north of the Cannonball River will be closed to all public use and access effective December 5, 2016. A "free-speech" zone will be allowed south of the river.
This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations 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 necessary emergency, medical, and fire response services, law enforcement, or sustainable facilities to protect people from these conditions on this property cannot be provided.
In reply, Tribal Chairman Archambault again called on President Barack Obama and Federal officials to intercede and once and for all deny access and permitting under Lake Oahe.
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. Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the mistreatment of our people. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe stands united with more than 300 tribal nations and the water protectors who are here peacefully protesting the Dakota access pipeline to bolster indigenous people's rights. We continue to fight for these rights, which continue to be eroded. Although we have suffered much, we still have hope that the President will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people and especially our children.
In recent weeks, confrontations between water protectors and law enforcement officials from Morton County North Dakota have resulted in the deaths of two horses, eye injuries, pulmonary injuries from rubber bullets, hypothermia from water cannons used in frigid conditions and the near-loss of an arm.