As police made their long-anticipated march into the nearly empty Oceti Sakowin camp on Thursday, one grandmother stood waiting for them.
In her eyes, no one with treaty authority had negotiated for the police or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enter. So she was not relieved from her stand.
Despite a young woman’s efforts to convince her to leave, she stood, shoulder to shoulder with fellow veterans, waiting. Not for the government to evict her, she said. But rather, for the Dakota Access Pipeline to stop.
“Since the treaty was involved, it wasn’t a matter of waiting for them to take us out. No, it was a matter of just staying until this pipeline stopped,” said 76-year-old Regina Brave, the Oglala Sioux woman from South Dakota, whose face is now across the Internet and appeared on national newspaper front pages Friday.
Police finally came around 11 a.m., first with machinery, then with men. They arrested 46 people who remained within the camp for obstruction of a government function.
“The whole cavalry was there,” she said.
She watched as the police handcuffed people who stood in a line by their camp, some pulled by police after they refused to walk up the hill.
Then police cuffed her — in front, and fairly loose, she acknowledged — and put her in a Jeep up the hill and then in a van to Morton County Correctional Center. There, the vans pulled up to garages where protesters were held in fenced cages before booking.
“I expected they would put me in there with them,” Brave said. “I think they were trying to kiss my … and make brownie points.”
Officials brought her into an office, cut the ties off her wrists and called Scott Davis, the director of the Indian Affairs Commission. She was given some food and met with a Morton County commissioner while she waited. She faces no criminal charges.
“Law enforcement certainly could not leave her there,” Strinden said. “It was cold. It was wet. It felt that at that point the best thing to do was to bring her to the law enforcement center, which they did.”
Davis called representatives of the camp-affiliated women’s society, which was arranging humanitarian help for women, children and elders leaving the camps, and they took her to a hotel where she stayed on Friday.
“Pretty much all of us on this side knew she wasn’t going to leave,” Davis said. “We just wanted to get her out of there.”
The Thursday eviction came after a widely publicized notice from the corps to campers who remained on the land near the Missouri River where a camp set up in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The camp once housed thousands of people. The land is owned by the corps, but many Sioux people say it still belongs to them by treaty. In recent weeks, state officials have expressed concerns about possible spring flooding and the corps made clear it would enforce an eviction deadline in order to allow for contractors to clean up.
“During this last round here we went through, we made a concerted effort to announce that there were resources for them to leave, humanitarian and voluntary and so forth,” Davis said. “It just didn’t work out that way.”
For Brave, it just wasn’t an option. A Navy veteran, she guarded a bunker at Wounded Knee in 1973. This eviction reminded her of centuries of native history and current battles around the world.
In the winter eviction, she thought of the poor relations between Native Americans and the Army that led to hunger, the Dakota War of 1862 and the execution of 38 native men at Mankato, Minn. She recalls how natural resources were taken from treaty territories and her frustration with poverty-stricken reservations and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
She sees possibility in cooperation with developing nations and other indigenous communities to fight back. Technology, she noted, helped to connect people and show the world.
“For 140 years, we have been prisoners of war, until Standing Rock happened, and it gave us unity to protect the water,” she said.