As severe winter storms batter sections of the northern United States, the Prairie Knights Casino And Resort in North Dakota has reportedly been turned into an unlikely refuge for those who had been protesting against the construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
According to a report from the Grand Forks Herald newspaper, the 200 available hotel rooms at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation venue were filled by Monday morning as blizzard conditions set in complete with sub-zero temperatures and winds reaching up to 40mph.
As conditioned have continued to worsen, even more people have reportedly made their way from the nearby Oceti Sakowin protest encampment, which has been the center of activities against the 1,172-mile under-construction pipeline since the spring, to the Fort Yates casino in search of food and shelter.
“It could be worse; if you have to be stranded, a casino is a good place to be,” Mike Alty, a protester who is now one of many sleeping in the casino’s large open pavilion, told the Grand Forks Herald.
Alty, who declared that he is a former medic in the United States Air Force, came to North Dakota along with a group of San Francisco veterans and revealed that he has been sleeping on the floor without a blanket or pillow but is just happy to be warm.
Julia Corbett, another protester that has been forced to take shelter in the casino’s pavilion, stated that a bus transporting people from the Oceti Sakowin camp to the Prairie Knights Casino And Resort recently took about five hours to make the 10-mile drive.
“We don’t have an official rank hierarchy so it’s going pretty darn good for what it is,” Corbett told the newspaper. “It looks disorganized and it feels that way at times but when you take in all the considerations it’s going well.”
Dave Archambault, Chairman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which filed a petition against the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing its tribal lands in August, used a Tuesday press conference to urge protesters to abandon the encampment between the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the pipeline construction zone.
“We deeply appreciate all the people who supported us with their presence but, when this storm passes, it is time to dismantle the camp and return to our homes,” said Archambault. “If the camp stays where it is currently located, people are risking their lives.”
The newspaper reported that Archambault described the ongoing blizzard as a “glimpse of what is to come” as winter deepens and temperatures plummet.