Standing Rock pipeline protesters dig in for long fight, cold winter

At the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, hundreds opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline are preparing their camp for a long fight and a cold winter.

100s opposed to Dakota Access Pipeline prepare camp for coming weather

Oceti Sakowin, the largest camp at Standing Rock, N.D., may grow in the coming weeks. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

At the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, hundreds opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline are preparing their camp for a long fight, a cold winter and a possible influx of new supporters

"They say the cold weather is really bad up here," said Chris Shorter, a Dine man who came from Tuba City, Ariz., to fight the pipeline.

Chris Shorter from Tuba City, Ariz., stands in front of the temporary structure he built for winter, which will house six to eight people. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

"With that in mind, we decided to build a warmer shelter, incorporating some wood stoves, heat, and try to make things as self-sufficient as we can, and as hospitable as we can."

Temperatures dropping

Opponents of the 1,900-kilometre pipeline being developed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners say it threatens the Missouri River, a source of drinking water for several American states. Protest camps with thousands of people in them have sprung up near Standing Rock, which is on the banks of the Missouri immediately south of where the pipeline will cross the river.

Already this week, the temperature has dropped significantly — sometimes as low as –2 C during the night. 

Forrest Hejkal, a carpenter from Ann Arbor, Mich., arrived at the camp and was quickly put to work building an insulated structure that will prevent the water truck from freezing.

Camp organizers are also planning to bring in yurts to house people over the winter. A Montreal company called Groovy Yurts arrived at the camp this week, announcing on Twitter that they sold yurts to the camp at a discounted rate.

One problem organizers face when winterizing the community is they are prohibited from building permanent structures on the land.

There is debate about ownership — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it's their land, but the Sioux Tribe claims the land rightfully belongs to them under to the 1851 Laramie Treaty.

Camp numbers expected to increase

Antoine Edwards Jr., an Indigenous musician from Omaha, Neb., has a large social media presence, which he's trying to use to attract more people to Standing Rock.

"There's a lot of people who want to come here, but they didn't have the resources ... and I knew that there are so many people who would come if they had that opportunity," said Edwards Jr..

A private funder has agreed to send buses sent to cities where at least 50 people are interested in coming to Standing Rock, and thousands of people have indicated they will make the trip, he said.

He expects many won't be prepared for the freezing temperatures, so they will likely not stay very long, but the camp is open and welcome to anyone wanting to join a fight that has no end in sight, he said.