Dakota Access pipeline camps abandoned, burned after nearly a year of protest

At its peak previous year, the 80-acre swath of prairie was home to thousands of Native Americans and environmental activists who transformed the federally owned land in North Dakota into a sort of communal village, complete with shelters, mess halls and community centers.

Today is the deadline for the few hundred remaining protesters at Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota.

College students also organized a demonstration outside the Pagosa Springs ranch of the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the pipeline.

Former President Barack Obama's administration handed the Standing Rock Sioux a momentary victory in December when the Army announced it would not allow the developer to build the pipeline near the tribe's reservation.

At its peak, the camp drew more than 10,000 from around the world, including thousands of veterans, who opposed the pipeline out of concern that it could rupture and pollute the Missouri River, a drinking-water source for millions downstream.

The governor of North Dakota had set Wednesday as the evacuation deadline for the largest protest camp, which is on a flat area north of the Cannonball River. Army Corps of Engineers eviction order.

Several tribes are fighting the pipeline in court, but recent defeats have all but assured construction of the 1,172-mile-long pipeline will go forward.

Oceti Sakowin, or "Seven Council Fires", is the native name for the Sioux nation.

North Dakota originally offered protestors a carrot. "This is the 21st century Trail of Tears".

Most protesters have already packed up and gone.

Ten protesters were arrested along Highway 1806 outside of the camp late Wednesday afternoon, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said.

Some of the praying protesters said burning the structures - which appeared to include a yurt and a teepee - was part of the ceremony of leaving.

"Some people are trying to do final cleanup, and there are still people there who are going to remain until they are removed". "I'm anxious for their safety, we all are".

The irony, of course, is that ETP and the USA government are invading Lakota treaty territory to build the pipeline-and their private security goons, along with police, have been the ones prepared to use violence to get their way. The emergency evacuation order said the protest site is located in a flood plain, and that campers are at risk as snowmelt accelerates in warmer temperatures.

Up the hill from Winona's Kitchen, one of the most revered of American Indian protest icons-now in his 80s-proved he still has what it takes to hold a crowd spellbound. Some called the arson "ceremonial", but most Standing Rock water protectors have publicly disavowed the act.

"It's an act of defiance". "It's very sad that we have to leave here. We'll burn it to the ground and let the earth take it back before you take it from us".

According to Standing Rock protesters, the authorities don't care about the environment. Opponents of the pipeline also were concerned that the possibility of oil spills in the future could affect local communities. While the pipeline is almost complete, over 100 tribal nations stand with Standing Rock in denouncing the evacuation. "We've got to clean this up".

"There are impacts and then you have the chemical issues, the abandoned cars and those types of things that just have to that just have to get pulled off the floodplain".

  • Larry Hoffman