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Time runs short to build winter protest camp

CANNON BALL, N.D.-- Though daylight is running out, there is still time to establish a safe, warm winter camp for people committed to stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to Tom Goldtooth, an organizer for the Indigenous Environmental N...

he small reservation community of Cannon Ball, population 900, is already the gateway to the original anti-Dakota Access pipeline Sacred Stone spirit camp and is a possible location for a winter camp for hundreds occupying an overflow camp a few miles away. Photo by Lauren Donovan / Bismarck Tribune
he small reservation community of Cannon Ball, population 900, is already the gateway to the original anti-Dakota Access pipeline Sacred Stone spirit camp and is a possible location for a winter camp for hundreds occupying an overflow camp a few miles away. Photo by Lauren Donovan / Bismarck Tribune

CANNON BALL, N.D.- Though daylight is running out, there is still time to establish a safe, warm winter camp for people committed to stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to Tom Goldtooth, an organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Goldtooth and several others in a working group made a presentation Sunday to nearly 200 people at the Cannon Ball community center, detailing a permanent camp infrastructure not only for this winter but for the future, using nontraditional structures and renewable energy sources.

The desire to move the camp is based on three motivations, according to Goldtooth. First is a desire to move out of the low-lying Cannonball River floodplain in case of high water this spring, and the second is warmth, safety and the need to have a well thought-out camp rather than one that grew organically as people arrived and services sprang up. The third is the continued uncertainty of camping on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' grazing land that's under lease to David Meyer, he said.

The town is already the gateway to the original Sacred Stone spirit camp, where as many as 100 are living since the anti-pipeline movement started in April.

The overflow camp down the road a couple of miles has 800 to 1,000 occupants, Goldtooth said.

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"That was my estimate looking out from `Facebook Hill' Monday morning," he said, referring to the overflow camp location where cell service is most reliable. The working group anticipates that about 500 people would stay for the winter.

"None of us expected this. It's a reflection of the resiliency of our people," said Goldtooth, who indicated a new winter camp would be an option for people, not a requirement.

The Red Warrior Camp within the larger overflow camp, recently moved from near the Cannonball River to higher ground to get out of the possible effects of the floodplain, he said.

"We're running out of daylight; I don't like to say time, but we fully know there's a short time to build appropriate facilities," he said.

Archie Fool Bear, a former tribal councilman and member of the Akicita warrior and veterans' group, said he believes the camps are doing a good job of looking out for each other and providing self-leadership and policing.

"There are serious concerns about the weather and the health and safety of the elderly, the women and the children in the camp," said Fool Bear, adding he's more worried about the safety of direct-action protesters now that law enforcement has upped the terminology from trespass to riot.

"Now, they can use deadly force. I'm concerned that if someone's tire pops at a protest, that's all the excuse they need. It's scary as all get-out," Fool Bear said.

Joyce Wood, who works in the Cannon Ball District nutrition program, said aspects of the planned winter camp - like its reliance on solar panels - are great ideas and she'd like to see it located within the tribe's jurisdiction.

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Wood takes a long view of the anti-pipeline movement, which she believes will prevent the pipeline from operating, to the day when the camps are gone and the reservation returns to normal.

"I'm worried about the repercussions; we've always had the backlash of name calling and pointed fingers. When all is said and done, we have to live here. Will it be worth it?" she says.

Goldtooth said a new winter camp would be built by volunteers using donations from groups and individuals.

Archie Fool Bear
Archie Fool Bear

Related Topics: DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE
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