OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP, North Dakota- On Thursday morning at the Oceti Sakowin Resistance camp of water protectors, a message was shared across the camp speaker calling all media and documenters to immediately make their way to Turtle Island, a hill located under a mile from the main camp where indigenous water protectors say many of their ancestors are buried. Oceti Sakowin, located south of Bismarck, and north of Cannonball, North Dakota is one of the multiple camps that has been in existence since April, and was constructed by those who launched the attempt to end the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux sacred and ancestral tribal lands. The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project would carry bakken shale oil to Illinois if completed. The project has been temporarily suspended through permitting process by the US Army Corps of Engineers, but water protectors say that construction continues.
Law enforcement made announcements to the water protectors that constructing the bridge across the river would force the officers to use water cannons or escalate. Claims were continuously coming from the top of Turtle Island where officers annouced, “We do not want a confrontation today, stop building the bridge. If you cross onto the island we will have to consider that a threat and respond accordingly.”
Water protectors responded, “You have guns! We have prayer!”
The stated intention to cross to Turtle Island was the demand that law enforcement not stand on top of the sacred burial site of Indigenous ancestors, and also to encircle the island with people who wanted to share a prayer with their ancestors on what is a sacred day for them. After almost two hours on the island, water protectors asked law enforcement to remove themselves from atop Turtle Island communicating that the water protectors would then return to camp if the request were honored.
Law enforcement did not respond to the request or communication from the water protectors, and water protectors continued with the action by calling all people back to the other side of the river to close with a final prayer. As the closing prayer began, water protectors called out again to the law enforcement to remove their helmets for the prayer to which reportedly a few individuals complied by raising their helmets above their heads.
This last week of November brought thousands of water protectors from across the country to Oceti Sakowin camp and it was clear that the law enforcement were very aware of the increased presence of people coming from out of state. As this week ends and many people leave the camp again, violence and repression against water protectors is expected to continue.