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Some Standing Rock Campers Ignore Evacuation Calls, Brace for Winter


Both chopped firewood and donated wood for building shelter were buried under snow this week as a blizzard passed through the camp (E. Sarai / VOA)

Though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday it would not allow easement of their land to build the controversial Dakota Access oil Pipeline, many protesters camping near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation are not leaving.

A blizzard, which left many stranded on state and county roads as they tried to seek shelter off-site, has also failed to deter a number of protesters, who refer to themselves as “water protectors”. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has said the $3.8-billion project would affect its drinking water supply and destroy its sacred sites.

“I guess we just...don’t feel like it is truly over until we see the lights shut off, the construction equipment put away, the roadblock taken down,” said Byron Shorty, a Navajo from Arizona who has made the trip up to Standing Rock six times in two-week increments since the camp was set up earlier this year.

"But then it comes to mind that this is under the Obama administration," Shorty continued. "What happens after Trump assumes the presidency?"

Canned foods, coffee, and blankets are among the items being donated and purchased with donated funds in the Oceti Sakowin camp as protesters hunker down for winter (Photo: E. Sarai/VOA)

Canned foods, coffee, and blankets are among the items being donated and purchased with donated funds in the Oceti Sakowin camp as protesters hunker down for winter (Photo: E. Sarai/VOA)

What happens under Trump?

The question is one that campers who remain as well as those planning to leave are asking. An official with Donald Trump's transition team says the president elect will "support construction" of the pipeline and will review the project once in office, but it is unclear whether he will reverse the Army Corps' decision.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, David Archambault II, has told a number of news agencies that he has asked the camp to disband, saying that people should return to their families during the presidential transition.

Archambault has acknowledged that this decision could be reversed when Trump is in office, but said that nothing can be done before the inauguration.

Though a number campers came for short periods of time, not equipped for the harsh winter and blizzard conditions, others have been here for months and are familiar with North Dakota winters.

The donation tent on the campground continues to sort through bottled water, canned food, propane tanks, and hand warmers, though there are fears donations will decrease now that many believe their fight is over.

Many tent and yurt-owners on the campsite have been using propane to heat their winter shelters (Photo: E. Sarai/VOA)

Many tent and yurt-owners on the campsite have been using propane to heat their winter shelters (Photo: E. Sarai/VOA)

Environmental impact

In a statement Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes for the pipeline.

The 1,885-kilometer pipeline, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, is mostly complete, except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir in North Dakota formed by a dam on the Missouri River. It is designed to transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois..

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