By Daysha Eaton
A snowstorm blanketed the plains of North Dakota Monday bringing winter to the main camp for people demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Army Corps of Engineers says the fast-approaching winter is one reason it issued an eviction notice to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Friday. In a letter, the Corps states demonstrators need to move the main camp south of the Cannonball River, due to safety concerns.
Tribal leaders say they’re disappointed in the Corps’ decision and adds it’s “unfortunate and disrespectful” that the announcement came right after Thanksgiving.
On a hill overlooking a sea of tents, teepees and yurts, Native leaders gathered Saturday to respond to the notice. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II says people are there for peaceful and prayerful ceremony.
“What they gave us was a notice, that these lands are no longer available for hunting and for fishing and for recreation and recreation can include camping but what we are doing here is exercising our First Amendment right – and we are not breaking any laws, we’re not violating any laws,” Archambault said.
People have been occupying Corps land along the path of the pipeline since April, claiming tribes are the rightful owners under an 1851 treaty.
Nick Tilsen, Oglala Sioux from Pine Ridge, is among those who do not plan to leave the camp.15
“Indigenous people are here to stay and we’re not going to leave unless it is on our own terms because this is our treaty land, this is our ancestral land,” Tilsen said. “This is where our people have been for thousands of years.”
Camp organizers estimates the number of people at the main camp, Oceti Sakowin, at somewhere between five-thousand and eight-thousand people. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is preparing a place to move campers if it gets too cold. The Army Corps does not plan to forcibly remove people from the camp, but may issue citations.