By National Native News staff
Law enforcement officers arrested at least 10 people Wednesday (2/22) during a short confrontation with those left in the former Oceti Sakowin camp on federal land in North Dakota. Officers moved in again Thursday morning to clear remaining inhabitants and start the process to clean structures and debris off the land.
Most of the remaining protesters—about 150 people—marched out of the camp accompanied by singing, drumming and prayers before the 2 p.m. deadline. Among those leaving was Dan Nanamkin (Nez Perse Umatilla and Lakes Okanogan). He had been at the camp since September. He said it was a heartbreaking decision.
“We decided among ourselves, if we were to be peacefully removed, we were going to do so with dignity, we are going to leave with dignity and in a respectful, prayerful way,” Nanamkin said. “So we could have our heads help up high in regards that we did the best that we could and there’s no shame in leaving. So we took care of ourselves in that way.” He said he has set up for now at the nearby Eagle Nest camp and is deciding whether to stay on.
Those leaving the camp set fire to as many as 20 structures, reportedly for ceremonial reasons. The Morton County Sheriff’s office reports two people were treated at the hospital for burns although it’s still unclear how those happened. A large contingent of officers in riot gear moved in about two hours after the 2 p.m. Wednesday deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota officials passed. The officers repeatedly rushed a group of protesters, grabbed selected people, then retreated.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said those remaining had another chance to leave Thursday without risk of arrest. State officials said clean-up would continue and anyone interfering would be arrested.
North Dakota officials offered meals, short-term lodging, medical exams and even bus tickets for protesters who left by Wednesday afternoon. Officials say only four people made use of the services.
Construction on the pipeline has already resumed. Pipeline backers say oil could be flowing as early as March 6th.