They aren't deterred by the threat of flooding, nor by declarations from state and federal authorities that they must leave by Wednesday or face possible arrest. They're determined to remain and fight a pipeline they maintain threatens the very sanctity of the land. "If we don't stand now, when will we?" said Tiffanie Pieper of San Diego, who has been in the camp most of the winter.
Protest started in August
Protesters have been at the campsite since August to fight the $3.8 billion pipeline that will carry oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners began work on the last big section of the pipeline this month after the Army gave it permission to lay pipe under a reservoir on the Missouri River. The protest camp is on Army Corp of Engineers land nearby. The protests have been led by Native American tribes, particularly the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux, whose reservation is downstream. They say the pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites. ETP disputes that.
Protesters block highway 1806 in Mandan, North Dakota, during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation
Faced with the prospect of spring flooding, some protesters are considering moving to higher ground, though not necessarily off the federal land. Some may move to the Standing Rock Reservation, where the Cheyenne River Sioux is leasing land to provide camping space even though Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault has urged protesters to leave. "We have the same goals," Cheyenne River Chairman Harold Frazier said of himself and Archambault. "We don't agree on whether or not the water protectors should be on the ground."
No camp re-entry after Wednesday
On Monday, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum talked with Archambault on the telephone about efforts to clean up and vacate the protest camp, Burgum's office said. Burgum and Archambault both stressed the importance of keeping lines of communication open, including a one-page flyer that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs will distribute in the camp, reminding protesters that the main camp will be evacuated at 2 p.m. Wednesday and re-entry will not be allowed, Burgum's office said.
Trash waits to be hauled away at the Dakota Access oil pipeline protest camp as a National Guard Humvee monitors the camp from a nearby hilltop
More than 230 truckloads of debris have been hauled out as of Monday, according to the governor's office. Those urging the protesters to leave say they're concerned about possible flooding in the area as snow melts. "The purpose of this is to close the land to ensure no one gets harmed," said Corps Capt. Ryan Hignight.
Debris from camp a concern