With the President’s recent announcement concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Standing Rock Tribal Council is seeking to shift their fight to protect their drinking water and important cultural lands from on-site protests to legal and legislative battles. In a press release posted to the Facebook page of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the Tribal Council agreed to work towards disbanding the existing camps, stressing fears for the continued safety of the protectors.
The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church formally asserted its support of the Tribal Nation’s efforts to block the pipeline and called on local and federal governments to de-escalate their response to the protests. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has also personally gone to Standing Rock to show support.
Episcopal News Service interviewed the Rev John Floberg, Missioner to the the Episcopal congregations at Standing Rock yesterday;
“The tribe is not expelling people,” the Rev. John Floberg, priest-in-charge of Episcopal Church congregations on the North Dakota side of Standing Rock, agreed.
However, he said, the tribe is telling people that the winter has been so harsh that remaining in the camps can be fatal in a land where wind chills have reached as low as -60 degrees. The tribe also wants debris in the camp removed. People took good care of the camps, Floberg said, but a Dec. 5 blizzard inundated the area, collapsing and burying tents and other flimsy structures – debris that the tribe wants to ensure that spring floods do not sweep into the river.
Many residents say they are tired of the Backwater Bridge being closed because it is their primary route to work and hospital services. The Cannon Ball community gym, used for sports, meetings and funerals, is in need of cleaning and repairs due to serving as an emergency shelter for protesters, some of whom continue to stay there, according to Floberg and the Bismarck Tribune newspaper.
The Tribal Council’s statement
Over a week ago, representatives from the various camps and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met at length to develop a plan for relocating from the camps, which are in danger of flooding. In the time since, the Cannonball community came forward with a resolution asking that, for liability reasons and social and financial strain, the Tribal Council consider disbanding rather than relocating the camps. The Tribal Council has heard the concerns of the community and despite recent actions taken by the Trump administration, we stand by the Cannonball district’s decision.
We understand and acknowledge the power of the camps in bringing us this far in our fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We maintain, however, that given current conditions, both physical and political, the focus must shift from maintaining camps to being at the political and legal forefront. The new regime will not respond to the camps with moderate actions; the tribe is not willing to place its citizens nor its battle against DAPL in jeopardy where so much that has been accomplished can be lost. For this reason, we ask that the campers leave by the 30th of January.
The Tribal Council understands that many wish to return to camp given the Presidential Memorandum issued Tuesday that attempts to push DAPL forward. We stress, however, that further actions at the camp and at the bridge and drill pad are not where we will find success in this struggle moving forward. We need to be able to focus our energy on the intense government-to-government political situation and not the camps. Please do not return, but instead put your heart and effort into supporting the battle for clean water from your various homes around the globe.
While the Tribe has no plans for forcible removal or sweeps, please understand that there is law enforcement capability outside of tribal control. We do not want to give them cause to enter the area. We thank you for your cooperation and commitment, and hope that you continue to stand with us as we take this movement into the next phase; the sheer number of our supporters and their voices being heard through various media are one of our most powerful allies as we continue to push back against the new administration.
Once again, we encourage the remaining campers and those who wish to return to consider the dangerous conditions facing the region. This has been an unusually harsh winter, and we are expecting early and severe flooding to the region. We stress the need to clean and clear the area for the sake of human wellbeing and also for that which you came to protect: the water.
image: from the Facebook Page of Oceti Sakowin Camp