Published February 3, 2017
WASHINGTON – The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has requested assistance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to close the encampments where tens of thousands have visited and lived since last year. At issue is the camps are in flood plains and tribal officials are warning the 500 people still there that the spring thaw will cause the land where the encampments are situated to be under water.
The tribe has asked those still there to leave prior to February 16, 2017 as work has to be done to ensure the land is cleared of all debris.
On Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the camp will be closed by February 22, 2017.
“As stewards of the public lands and natural resources, we have a responsibility to the public to prevent injuries and loss of life, and to ensure that our precious water resources are free from pollution due to human activities and respect for all who rely on this water for their livelihoods,” said Col. John Henderson, the corps’ Omaha District commander. “Public safety will continue to be our top priority.”
The BIA will send law enforcement to assist in the closure of the encampments.
Late Friday afternoon, the Department of the Interior – Indian Affairs, where the BIA is located within the federal government, issued the following statement from Acting Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Michael S. Black on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and BIA law enforcement assistance:
“The Bureau of Indian Affairs today responded to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for BIA law enforcement support and will assist them in closing the protest camps within the Standing Rock Reservation boundary.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe previously passed a tribal resolution asking the BIA for the assistance of its officers to support and ensure the safety of the tribe’s camp-closing operation. North Dakota Governor Burgum, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leadership, local law enforcement, and local landowners have all warned the public and those still camped of the dangerous spring flooding expected due to the heavy amount of snowfall the state received this winter.
“The closing of the camps is a matter of public health and safety and working together at this time will allow for the safe removal of waste and debris that will impact the local environment and protection of those camped.”