After North Dakota Republican Governor Doug Burgum issued executive orders to evacuate the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock, setting as a deadline the afternoon of February 22nd , yesterday most of the activists left voluntarily among police in riot gear. Ten activists were arrested near the camp.
Darren Begay, who has been managing the Navajo style structures at Oceti, told Indigenous Rising Media that as the forced evacuation grew nearer, he consulted with elders from his ancestral lands. They all agreed that based on the behavior of the law enforcement in the past, who during raids have broken and thrown away sacred items and who have shown disregard and horrible disrespect to tipis and sacred dwellings, it was best to burn these scared structures, instead of having them desecrated by Morton County and North Dakota law enforcement.
“Lighting our dwellings on fire is a sign of respect for them” Begay explained. “It’s a sign of respect for the purpose they have served over these past few months. They have been containers for prayer and for bringing people together. By lighting them on fire we send their smoke up like prayers. By lighting them on fire we ensure these structures go out in dignity.”
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of The Indigenous Environmental Network, released this statement: “We are appalled by today’s forced evacuations of indigenous people at the Camp at Standing Rock. They are a violent and unnecessary infringement on the constitutional right of water protectors to peacefully protest and exercise their freedom of speech. It hinders the camp clean up process and creates confusion and chaos that puts the Missouri River at risk of pollution from construction and camping debris.
Today’s expulsion is a continuation of a centuries old practice, where the U.S. Government forcefully removes Indigenous people from our lands and territories. We urge supporters of the water protectors to continue to resist this travesty by organizing mass mobilizations, distributed actions, speaking out against the violations of the Treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation, and continuing to source up the capacity for litigation and grassroots organizing against the Dakota Access pipeline.
Our hearts are not defeated. The closing of the camp is not the end of a movement or fight, it is a new beginning. They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started. It burns within each of us. We will rise, we will resist, and we will thrive. We are sending loving thoughts to the water protectors along the banks of the Cannonball River, today. May everyone be as safe as can be”.