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Tribal chairman: Protest camp could be empty by year's end

The Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is down to about 300 people and might be empty by Jan. 1.

During a meeting Tuesday with North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, five tribal council members and various state and county officials, David Archambault, Standing Rock tribal chairman, told the governor that protesters are leaving the camp which once held an estimated 10,000 people.

The purpose of the nearly three-hour-long meeting held at the Morton County and Mandan Law Enforcement Center was to discuss ways to begin rebuilding the relationship between the state and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

“Long after the issues surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline are resolved, the state and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council must work together,” Dalrymple said. “We must look beyond current tensions surrounding this pipeline project and value the relationships that are critical to advancing the important work of the state and the Standing Rock Tribal Council.”

Despite blizzard conditions and sub-zero temperatures, there are reports that through social media, some protesters are being encouraged to stay at the camp north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property.

A group of North Dakota law enforcement officials this week sent a strongly worded letter to Pres. Barack Obama asking for federal support. They noted that on Nov. 25, the Corps of Engineers sent a letter to Archambault requesting that the protest camp be closed by Dec. 5. The Corps later said it had no plans to forcibly evict the protesters.

“We cannot express strongly enough our need for financial assistance and additional manpower in order to follow through on the demands made in the November 25th letter and respond to the increasingly dangerous situation developing on federal land owned by the Corps,” the letter said. “Specifically, the support of one hundred Border Patrol agents and members of the U.S. Marshal Special Operations Group would allow us to maintain effective control over this situation.”

The letter—signed by five county sheriffs, six city police chiefs and the head of the North Dakota Highway Patrol—noted that the law enforcement agencies have responded to and supported federal authorities when they’ve requested help.

“Unfortunately, we have seen just the opposite from our federal leaders during this trying time,” the letter said. “It appears they are more responsive to social media rhetoric and misinformation than they are to facts and pleas for assistance from fellow law abiding government officials.”

The letter also said, “The federal government’s response to the events in our community has been appalling, and it is abundantly clear they have no interest in helping the citizens of North Dakota. Frankly, our federal leaders should be ashamed of their lack of response to a dangerous crisis currently in progress on their own soil.”

Dalrymple said the meeting with Archambault and tribal officials was constructive and an important step toward rebuilding long-term relationships.

“It was also helpful to discuss the public safety concerns surrounding the pipeline protest camp on federal property,” he added. 

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