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Protest camp contamination concerns arise with flooding threat

Protest camp contamination concerns arise with flooding threat

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CANNON BALL, N.D. | The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council asked Dakota Access pipeline protest camp organizers to share their plans for camp cleanup and other issues in an effort to address unsubstantiated rumors.

“I think that’s what should be afforded to my community in Cannon Ball; they need to know what’s going on on a month-to-month basis,” said Councilman Cody Two Bears during a meeting between the council and camp leaders that was live-streamed on Thursday.

With record snowfall, the council is looking ahead to possible spring flooding. The council expressed worry over safety, as well as trash and waste contaminating the Missouri River.

“Because of this risk of flood, we’re worried about what’s going to be left at the camp,” said Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II. “What we want to do is make sure none of that waste gets into the Missouri River. .… We’re water protectors, but we’re the ones that are going to start contaminating the water.”

“We’re not saying go away,” said Councilman Frank Whitebull, though he did ask protest organizers to move to land set aside by the tribe for the camp’s relocation.

Archambault asked the camp leaders to address the council’s concerns in an effort to open lines of communication and find solutions.

Camp leaders said they are trying to address sanitation, though they did not go into detail on specific plans beyond committees formed to pick up trash.

“We don’t want the water contaminated, either,” said Chase Iron Eyes, who has recently taken on a leadership role with the camps.

“We recognize we are in a floodplain, and we’re making plans to move,” said camp leader Paula Antoine.

The informal meeting was the result of a motion from the Cannon Ball District to close Sacred Stone Camp. The council convened the meeting to discuss the issues that led to that motion.

Sacred Stone Camp founder LaDonna Allard expressed her disappointment at the effort to close the camp, which is on her family’s privately owned ranch on the reservation.

“I live here; I know that it will flood,” Allard said. “I believe what happened is a breakdown in communication.”

Allard said Sacred Stone has formed a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and has plans to build a permanent “green energy” camp. She said there are plans to put a tower in place for cell and internet service. There are buildings for a dormitory, dining and to store equipment. The camp has a tractor and plow for moving snow. It has also purchased 40 yurts, 40 tipis and three greenhouses for organic farming. She said these are all services to be shared with the community.

Two Bears pointed to this as an example of communication issues as this was the first time he had heard about it. The tribe has also made its own plans for a permanent camp with similar infrastructure on the land set aside for the camp relocation.

Other issues brought up by council members included strains on the tribe’s resources.

While donations have helped cover costs for legal battles and some services provided to the camps, Archambault said they haven’t covered it all.

“There’s a cost to it, and it’s costing our membership,” Archambault said.

Other issues included concerns over intoxication when Cannon Ball opened its gym as a winter shelter and evidence of poaching.

Antoine said she and others recognize there are issues associated with the camps and they are making plans to address them, adding that the dialogue started at Thursday’s meeting is a good beginning.

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