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National

Standing Rock Protesters Gear Up For Winter

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Protesters have been camped out at the Dakota Access construction site North Dakota for months. Now winter has arrived, dumping almost two feet of snow on the encampment this past weekend. The two-day blizzard drove out some protesters, but most are gearing up to stay. For NPR News, Nicky Ouellet of Prairie Public Broadcasting reports.

PAUL CHE OKE TEN WAGNER: Knock, knock.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Come in.

WAGNER: OK. Thank you.

NICKY OUELLET, BYLINE: Paul Che oke ten Wagner designed and is building a new style of teepee - he calls it a tarpee (ph) - for people preparing to stay at the camp despite a recent pair of evacuation orders. Wagner is from the Saanich tribe. He lives in Washington State. He says he came up with the design after his first trip to Standing Rock in September.

WAGNER: And then I looked at the teepees, and I was walking around. I was like - that's it. It's the structure. It's the perfect shape for the environment.

OUELLET: He's one of a few thousand people committed to this ongoing protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. They're living in three camps along the banks of the Cannonball River, and that has authorities worried. The Oceti Sakowin camp is the only one on federal land where authorities say campers are illegally trespassing. Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Dakota governor have issued emergency evacuation orders for campers to leave that federal land. The Corps deadline is this coming Monday. Governor Jack Dalrymple warned that people trying to truck in supplies to the camp could be fined, and the state will no longer provide emergency services.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JACK DALRYMPLE: We will do our best to respond to emergencies, but under those conditions, we cannot guarantee a response.

OUELLET: Some people did leave camp after the storm and governor's order, but more are digging in for a long winter. Close to the Missouri River, Corinne Lewis (ph) is living in Michigan camp.

CORINNE LEWIS: This is the kitchen.

OUELLET: She's part of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and has been shuttling back and forth between the camp and her house in Michigan for a few months.

LEWIS: I felt like I was so at home and empowered to be here.

OUELLET: Michigan camp is a cluster of three Army green canvas sleeping tents, a mess hall, a teepee filled with supplies and a few tents half-buried in snow. Currently, about 50 people live here. There are dozens of other camps like this in the evacuation zone, and more people are arriving every day, including a group of 2,000 veterans who say they plan to act as human shields between protesters and the police. For NPR News, I'm Nicky Ouellet in Cannonball, N.D.

SIMON: And that report comes to us from Inside Energy, a public media collaboration that's focused on America's energy issues. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.