Tensions are rising at the North Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock after an increase in complaints of white people “colonizing the camps” and treating it more like a Burning Man festival than a political rally. And if environmentalism is anyone’s motivation, the 3,000 people who have come and gone from the area aren’t any proof because they are not leaving it better than they found it, like the old outdoorsman saying goes.
In a Facebook post, one protester, Alicia Smith, laid out her issues:
On my way back from the camps. Need to get something off my chest that I witnessed and found very disturbing in my brief time there that I believe many others have started to speak up about as well.
White people are colonizing the camps. I mean that seriously. Plymouth rock seriously. They are coming in, taking food, clothing and occupying space without any desire to participate in camp maintenance and without respect of tribal protocols.
These people are treating it like it is Burning Man or The Rainbow Gathering and I even witnessed several wandering in and out of camps comparing it to those festivals.
Not only are these white liberals appropriating the protests, they are also accused of living off the donations sent into the tribes and “literally subsisting entirely off the generosity of native people (AND YOUR DONATIONS if you have been donating) who are fighting to protect their water just because they can,” as Smith wrote. Some participants are turning down tap water and spending the donated money on “fluoride free water.” They’re being reminded that the protest is “not a vacation” and that they need to actually help: “carry something, cook something, clean something.” They have been told to refrain from alcohol and drug use and to stop playing guitar and beating drums around the campfire.
“Unless you are asked to perform, don’t do it,” states a request. “Nobody wants to hear your songs.”
Meanwhile, these unwelcome additions have been digging pits along the federal land for their human waste which is in the flood zone of the Cannonball River. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault warned, “So when the floodwaters come up, that waste is going to be contaminating the water. We’re no different than the oil company if we’re fighting for water. What’s going to happen when people leave? Who has to clean it up? Who has to refurbish it? It’s going to be us, the people who live here.”
There have been other unintended environmental consequences, too, according to Archambault:
“Before this entire movement started, that was some of the most beautiful land around. There was a place down there where eagles, over 100 eagles would come and land. There were game down there—deer, pheasants, elk, geese. Now, it’s occupied by people. And when masses of people come to one place, we don’t take care of it.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the federal land where the pipeline is being proposed and in a statement said they don’t intend to forcibly remove the protesters but did urge them to move along or face citations. With a harsh winter approaching, the Corps is asking activists to make “a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location.”