Over the course of 2015, hundreds of leftist and environmentalist protesters descended on a camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to demand the halt of the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to a resolution passed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, the protesters have until January 30 to leave the main camp. The January 23 resolution declared that the tribe may call on federal law enforcement for help in the removal of the protesters, and block their re-entry, if they have not departed within 30 days.
 
In a statement, the tribe declared, "Moving forward, our ultimate objective is best served by our elected officials, navigating strategically through the administrative and legal processes." The statement continued, saying, "For this reason, we ask the protectors to vacate the camps and head home with our most heartfelt thanks."
 
There are concerns among the Sioux over the economic hardship it befell because of the blocking of the highway caused by the simmering protests. In early December, there were as many as 10,000 protesters on hand. They have now dwindled to several hundred. Some had come from as far away as Flint, Michigan. Some demonstrators were arrested, while at least one was seriously injured by an exploding flash-bang grenade used by law enforcement. 
 
On December 4, the tribe won a victory when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called for further analysis of the suspected environmental impact of the $3.8 billion pipeline project being lead by  Energy Transfer Partners. Today, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that streamlined the processing of environmental studies. During the signing ceremony, Trump would not answer questions about the Standing Rock tribe’s opposition to the pipeline.
 
However, during the daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, "There's a way that you can continue to negotiate that, whether it's the Native Americans, concerns that they have on some of the lands." Spicer said, "He is willing to sit down with all of the individuals that are involved in the Dakota pipeline to make sure that it's a deal that benefits ... all of the parties of interest, or at least gets them something that they want."
 
Sub-zero temperatures and life-threatening weather on the Great Plains, along with the shift from protesters to a legal battle, have prompted Standing Rock tribal chairman Dave Archambault to urge protesters to go home. The whole area has been covered with record-setting snowfall. It is feared that the main protest camp, dubbed Oceti Sakowin, will be underwater as early as March when the expected thaw comes.
 
Also, in Cannon Ball, the district of the Standing Rock reservation closest to Oceti Sakowin, residents recently passed a resolution to express opposition of any new winter camp within their district. People there are upset that a road closure due to the protest significantly increased the driving time to Bismarck. Many residents work, shop and receive medical care in Bismarck. They are also concerned over the condition of the gymnasium at Cannon Ball gym, which is in need of repair and cleaning. It has been used as an emergency shelter for pipeline opponents. 


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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