The day after Thanksgiving—timing that is "both unfortunate and disrespectful"—the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says it got notice from the US Army Corps of Engineers that it must vacate the land where Dakota Access pipeline protesters have been camping since August. “Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the mistreatment of our people," the tribe's chairman tells PBS. Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, tells the Bismarck Tribune the Oceti Sakowin camp north of the Cannonball River is currently home to 5,000 to 7,000 protesters. With the corps closing the land, they have until Dec. 5 to relocate or face trespassing charges.
In a letter shared by the Standing Rock Sioux, the Army Corps of Engineers says it is closing the land to protesters over "safety concerns," specifically that clashes between protesters and law enforcement will endanger the public. The AP reports the corps is also concerned protesters will die attempting to live in the camp through the winter. The corps plans to open a "free-speech zone" south of the Cannonball River. But Gooldtooth says there isn't enough space south of the river, and a winter camp on reservation land isn't ready yet. He calls the decision by the corps "stupid" and "foolish," especially with a few thousand US veterans expected to join protesters Dec. 4. Protesters are concerned the Dakota Access pipeline will taint the tribe's water supply and disturb cultural artifacts. (Read more Dakota Access Pipeline stories.)