Campers say DAPL protest camp numbers remain around 1,000, despite subzero temperatures

Published: Dec. 14, 2016 at 6:00 PM CST
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Since the Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River and the onset of subzero weather, there has been plenty of speculation that protesters would start leaving the protest camp in southern Morton County in large numbers.

Tuesday, Governor Jack Dalrymple announced he met with Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault to discuss a path forward. One of the things discussed was the camp's population, which they estimated to be around 300 people. Those at the camp say that number is closer 1,000.

People at the Dakota Access protest camp are digging in. They say they aren't going anywhere.

"Nothing's changed for me. I'm still here, I ain't going nowhere. I'm here to protect all I can, to help out as much as I can and trying to make things right and keep things right," says Oscar Highelk, camper.

Many have speculated that campers would be leaving after harsh winter conditions have set in, but many, if not all, of the larger structures still remain.

Since the temperatures have dropped, reports of the camps population has gone as low as about 300 people. But people here say that's not quite true.

"There was a Thanksgiving rush, then there were the veterans that were here. But before that, this was about the numbers we had before all those people showed up," says Warren Piengkham, camper.

Challenges remain for those who stay. Harsh temperatures below zero means every day chores can become serious burdens. But those in the camp say they're committed.

"I quit my job, so I don't got nothing. This is my responsibility, taking care of these people," says Piengkham.

They will stay until they are sure the pipeline issue is resolved, and they say they hope to know by the end of January. But if that's not the case, they are ready to stay for the long haul.

Energy Transfer Partners has sued to force the Army Corp of Engineers, and the next deadline in that case is January 31 when ETP is required to file the motion in federal court.