Winnipeggers gather winter clothing to ship to Standing Rock

As temperatures drop and tension rises at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota, a handful of Winnipeggers are contributing their considerable equipment and expertise for bundling up to the cause.

'It's worth supporting in any way we can,' says donor of hats, mitts, gloves

Cecil James helped organize a winter clothing drive for in support of Standing Rock. (CBC)

As temperatures drop and tension rises at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota, a handful of Winnipeggers are contributing their considerable equipment and expertise for bundling up to the cause.

On Sunday, Manitoba supporters donated warm gear to a winter clothing drive held in front of the Manitoba legislature.

"It's getting colder out. A lot of us can't be in Standing Rock but we do want to show our support, so this is what we can do to help," said Cecil James, who helped organize the event.

"We've collected boots, toques, gloves, blankets, jackets, long underwear, we've received some cash donations, we've received little things like hand warmers that you put in your gloves. Every little bit helps."

Thousands have been camped out at the North Dakota reservation for months to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline, with recent reports of police violence including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons and rubber bullets.

If completed, the US$3.8-billion pipeline will carry crude oil south to Illinois from northern North Dakota.

Winnipeggers brought bags of winter clothes to help keep protesters in Standing Rock warm. (CBC)

After less than an hour collecting, James said he wasn't sure he'd be able to fit any more donations in his car.

"We support people protecting our atmosphere and environment. We need people to step up and stop pipelines because it's an end game for the climate," said Dave Nickarz, who brought a bag of shoes, sweaters, hats, mitts and gloves.

"We need to support that kind of action. Clothing drives and fundraisers are something we're going to be taking part in if we can't go down there ourselves. It's worth supporting in any way we can."

Nickarz was critical of media coverage he said created a "false equivalency" in violence between protesters and police.

"When it's protesters in the river getting pepper-sprayed by police, that's not a clash, that's just violence in one direction. I think it needs to be named," he said.

Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said he wants answers about how protesters will be removed from Standing Rock if they refuse to leave on Dec. 5. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Camp to be closed soon

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told the Standing Rock Sioux that the main camp will be closed by Dec. 5.

On Saturday, First Nations leaders from across the province met at Dakota Tipi First Nation to stand in solidarity with protesters.

At the event, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said he sees Indigenous people on both sides of the border as part of the same community.

"I think we need to know who is actually going to carry out that work because the militarized police presence down there is the inappropriate entity to try to negotiate that type of action on the camp," Nepinak said.

"There's a lot of outstanding questions but I can assure that if there's force, or there's going to be attempts to humiliate or bring physical harm to people, that there's going to be a huge response here on the Canadian side."

On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a press release stating the corps "is seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location, and has no plans for forcible removal."

"But those who choose to stay do so at their own risk as emergency, fire, medical, and law enforcement response cannot be adequately provided in these areas," the release states.

"Those who remain will be considered unauthorized and may be subject to citation under federal, state, or local laws. This will reduce the risk of harm to people in the encampments caused by the harsh North Dakota winter conditions."

Terry Nelson, Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization, said if authorities use force to remove protesters, he believes lives could be lost.

If that happens, he said he expects to see blockades in Canada.

"There's no question that that's going to happen. We're standing up here on this side because our people are saying no that's enough," he said.