Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters will not follow a government directive to leave the federal land where hundreds have camped for months, organizers said Saturday, despite state officials encouraging them to do so.
Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault and other protest organizers confidently explained that they'll stay at the Oceti Sakowin camp and continue with nonviolent protests a day after Archambault received a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that said all federal lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to public access Dec. 5 for "safety concerns."
The Corps cited the oncoming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters, who believe the pipeline could harm drinking water and Native American cultural sites, and police.
Standing Rock tribal members believe the land in which the encampment is on is owned by the Sioux through a more than century-old treaty with the U.S. government.
"We are wardens of this land. This is our land and they can't remove us," said protester Isaac Weston, who is an Oglala Sioux member from South Dakota. "We have every right to be here to protect our land and to protect our water."
The vast majority of the several hundred people fighting against the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline have created a self-sustaining community at the sprawling camp, which is on Corps land in southern North Dakota, and have put up semi-permanent structures or brought motor homes and trailers in advance of the harsh winter.
On the unseasonably warm Saturday, people were chopping wood and setting up tents at the encampment, which is more than a mile from a Missouri River reservoir where the final large segment of the pipeline is yet to be completed due to the Corps consulting with the tribe. Authorities had set up a staging area about a mile away on a hill overlooking the site.