As the Army Corps of Engineers forcibly evicted the last of the remaining water protectors from the Oceti Sakowin protest camp on Thursday, Indigenous opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) made it clear that their expulsion would not be the end of the fight.
“Our hearts are not defeated. The closing of the camp is not the end of a movement or fight, it is a new beginning,” said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN).
Observing the the expulsion “is a continuation of a centuries old practice, where the U.S. government forcefully removes Indigenous people from our lands and territories,” Goldtooth urged supporters to continue to resist through mass mobilizations, distributed actions, openly speaking out against treaty violations, and raising funds for litigation and grassroots organization.
Similarly, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the environmental watchdog organization Food & Water Watch, said that while allies are “angered by the use of overwhelming force to clear peaceful water protectors from the Standing Rock camps…we are more determined than ever to provide solidarity and support to indigenous communities across the country that are resisting dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure projects near their homes.”
“The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline will continue in the courts and in the streets,” Hauter added. “And our fight against the dirty, polluting, profit-driven fossil fuel industry will continue to grow in strength and determination from coast to coast,” she vowed.
One day after the Corps’ Wednesday eviction deadline passed, militarized law enforcement entered the camp on Thursday with demolition equipment and armored vehicles, according to independent journalism outfit Unicorn Riot, which on Thursday maintained a live feed of the operation while others shared updates on social media:
Knifing tipis and pointing loaded rifles at the occupants. It's the 1800s all over again. https://t.co/ODIh9sOt1d
— Ruth Hopkins (@RuthHHopkins) February 23, 2017
A total of 39 protectors were arrested, according to the Seattle Times, which described the heavily-armed operation that drew police forces “from around North Dakota and three other states”:
Police moved on the camp Thursday morning in dozens of armored personnel carriers, as a helicopter and fixed-wing airplane circled overhead. Police moved tent to tent and shack to shack with guns drawn, clearing out demonstrators. By 2:09 p.m. Central Time, it was over.
As many as 100 demonstrators were in the camp, according to activists, but authorities estimated 50.
Police were armed with ammunition, including their holster weapon, and additional weapons in their vehicles, said Rob Keller, of the Morton County Sheriff’s Office. He described the final closure as “a very smooth operation.”
Water protectors were given the option of relocating to one of three other campsites outside the eviction zone—Sacred Stone, Cheyenne River, and 7th Generation camps. However, at the time of this writing, it seemed that the police raid had moved on to the nearby Rosebud camp.
The Corps claim jurisdiction over the land where Oceti Sakowin is located, though local tribes note that it falls within the unceded Fort Laramie Treaty land and territories.
And although images of bulldozers and burning buildings blanketed social media on Thursday (some set fire by the protectors in “a final act of prayer and defiance”), the Indigenous pipeline opponents remained resolute.
“I am not sad. I am proud,” wrote Ruth Hopkins, a Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer for Indian Country Today Media Network.
“They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started,” IEN’s Goldtooth declared. “It burns within each of us. We will rise, we will resist, and we will thrive.”
— Christy (@Chronic_Christy) February 23, 2017