For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) in North Dakota has protested the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which was slated to be constructed just north of their reservation. Citing environmental concerns that the pipeline could contaminate their water supply and land, the tribe began organizing peaceful prayer demonstrations to show their disapproval of the proposed project. People from around the nation joined the tribe in their mission and soon thousands of “water protectors” came to the region to camp out on the reservation and Army Corps of Engineers land and take action. Though the tribe appreciated the support that subsequently inspired former President Obama to put a halt on the building of the pipeline, SRST has begun separating themselves from “rogue protesters” by disavowing their unlawful moves. On Wednesday, police arrested 76 of those individuals who had been asked by the Standing Rock Tribe to leave the reservation and illegally moved their camp to private property.
Sources in the nearby Bismarck community told American Military News that protesters moved their camp across the highway one camp that they had been stationed on after tribal and state leaders urged the area be cleared for safety reasons in anticipation of flooding in the spring. When they unlawfully moved onto the private property, the tribe disavowed the group of outside instigators that were no longer helping the cause. Sources say that while the Stand Rock Tribe has been publicly disavowing these individuals that hurt their cause, some tribal leaders have been discreetly pushing for more direct punitive actions taken against them.
The SRST issued a statement late Tuesday night separating themselves from these individuals.
“Last night, a group of campers moved materials onto private land. This group’s actions do not represent the tribe nor the original intent of the water protectors,” Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said. “If we are to fight for treaty rights, then we must all work together. Tribes came to Standing Rock in support of our tribe’s effort with the recognition that it will reflect back on us all. This type of action was not undertaken in that spirit, because instead of empowering us, it undermines us.”
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies have been leading the battle in federal court to protect our treaty rights. Not just our tribe’s land, but the treaty rights of all the Oceti Sakowin. The pipeline threatens our rights to hunt and fish. It also threatens our water rights—something we have seen successfully defended in Indian Country. This is what we seek to defend here,” Archambault continued.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying that “it is imperative the protest camps be vacated and the areas cleared for public safety and environmental protection before flooding begins in early spring.”
“As recently as Sunday, ongoing dialogue between all parties including camp leaders from the various protester camps resulted in agreements to start cleaning up the camps, to have protesters leave the area and for steps by law enforcement to help de-escalate the situation and move the region back to normalcy,” the statement continued.
The protesters have stated multiple times during Facebook livestreams that they do not need permission to occupy the space because it is “tribal government land” that was issued to Native Americans in an 1851 treaty. However, that treaty was broken when a new treaty was passed in 1868 and they no longer had full control of the land. The company that is building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, legally purchased the 9,000 acre Cannon Ball ranch months ago, making them the rightful owner.
Authorities in the Cannon Ball area said that they gave the protesters that set up camp on the property fair warning to leave before they started making arrests. Some of the protesters live streamed their interactions with police, and said that they were being told the police were just there to do an “assessment” of their newly set up camping arrangements but then began making arrests.
American Military News spoke with Tyler Everding, the founder of DefeND BisMan, a Facebook group where community members from Bismarck and Mandan have been communicating about the harassment and troubles they’ve had since the out-of-town protesters arrived in mid-to-late 2016. Bismarck and Mandan are situated about 30 minutes north of where the tribe’s protest activity was focused, but since the fall, residents in those communities began getting hassled, threatened, and intimidated by the “peaceful” protesters.
“These protesters were anything but peaceful. They were the nastiest, most vindictive people I’ve ever seen and they almost ruined one of the last innocent places in this country,” Everding said. “A place where there is no need to lock doors, roll your windows up or set an alarm. ALMOST. It was amazing to see this community come together the way it did.”
“People need to know it’s possible and ok to organize your communities to fight back against this nonsense,” he continued.