For months now, protesters have been keeping vigil at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), fiercely defending their roots, their sacred land and water.
During their demonstrations, these people have faced uncalled for militarized police action. Hundreds of mostly unarmed protesters have been arrested, maced, tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets and blasted with water and sound. Most recently, law enforcement sprayed protesters at Blackwater Bridge with water in subfreezing temperatures. Also, a DAPL protester may lose her arm after being hit by a concussion grenade.
And now that it has emerged that President-elect Donald Trump reportedly owns a share in the company building the multi-billion dollar oil pipeline, the anti-DAPL struggle appears far from over.
In fact, anti-DAPL activists will soon be deprived of their right to protest.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the federal land which has become the site of the protest, have ordered protesters to vacate the land or face arrest.
The orders were communicated to Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault via a letter from Colonel John Henderson, an Army Corps district commander.
Archambault responded in a statement that reads as follows:
"It is both unfortunate and ironic that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving — a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe. Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the treatment of our people. We have suffered much, but we still have hope that the president will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people and especially our children."
Although the protesters will be pushed back from the land they currently stand to protect, the government has offered what appears to be a consolation prize: a "free speech zone," in smaller camps, including a region south of the Cannonball River.
In spite of every act of aggression and threats, the demonstrators are standing tall. But it's not just the eviction from the protest encampment they have to worry about.
The situation under a Trump presidency appears bleaker as Trump's 2016 federal disclosure forms show he owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in the company behind the controversial pipeline, the Texas-based "Energy Transfer Partners."
Since, the president-elect stand to personally gain from the $3.5 million project, the protesters are naturally concerned over the future of their struggle.
And they believe so because Trump has threatened Native American sovereignty before, according to Alli Moran, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
"Trump targeted sovereignty in 1993 because he couldn’t open up a casino. A tribe had their casino established and it was competitive. He was very biased against Indian gaming and said they had an unfair advantage over his casinos. He didn’t believe we should have that right. He had tribal sovereignty on the chopping block back then, and if he had that impact back then, we can only imagine what he’s planning on doing when he’s president," Moran told Vox in an interview.
Eviction of the protest site may be looming but Archambault has made it clear the protestors have no intention of leaving the Oceti Sakowin Camp, which houses around 5,000 people at the moment.
"Our tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever," Archambault declared.