Economy

Heitkamp joins in asking protesters to leave

Heitkamp joins in asking protesters to leave

"The recent escalation of violence against members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and those standing in solidarity with them is fundamentally wrong and must be condemned". He was one of several people who spoke at a news conference Saturday in response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to close land where hundreds have been camping for months.

Dallas Goldtooth, a protest organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said it is "an atrocious example that colonization has not ended for us here as indigenous people", and that the government's request will escalate already rocky tensions.

Archambault's statement Friday, Nov. 25, the same day as the arrest of dozens of protesters at the Kirkwood Mall, highlights the chairman's concerns about protecting people during the winter and reducing the risk of conflict between "water protectors and militarized police".

Archambault said the land to be closed includes the Oceti Sakowin camp, a sprawling encampment on Army Corps land about 50 miles south of Bismarck.

Goldtooth said, if the corps wants to "wash its hands" of the issue, it would be better to deny the easement for Dakota Access that's now preventing the company from boring underneath the Missouri River/Lake Oahe to connect the pipeline that's mostly completed otherwise.

Protesters say the pipeline will threaten the environment and destroy Native American burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts. Those on the land after December 5 could be prosecuted for trespassing. He says protesters are building shelters and teepees to prepare.

For months the Sioux tribe along with thousands from around the world have been camped at Standing Rock, to protest the construction of the underground pipeline, which they claim will pass through a sacred burial site. Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers didn't immediately return multiple messages Friday or Saturday seeking comment and verification of the letter.

Dalrymple says that the federal government has allowed protesters to camp on Corps land for more than 100 days, so it is the government's responsibility to lead the camp's peaceful closure. For your reference, please find enclosed a map, marked as Exhibit A, which delineates this free speech zone area, as well as shows the Corps' lands north of the Cannonball River that will be prohibited from public use.

Heitkamp has been pressing the White House to make a decision on an easement for the pipeline. Dalrymple says further prolonging the situation intensifies public safety issues.

North Dakota has spent more than $10 million to provide enhanced law enforcement security since August.

The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, says that it has taken measures to prevent such leaks, that the pipeline is far safer than transporting oil with trucks or trains and that there is no archaeological significance to the area.

Col. John Henderson, Omaha district commander, in an email Friday to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said the corps is establishing a free speech zone on the south side of the Cannonball River as the main overflow camp on corps land on the north side of the river must be disbanded.

Henderson added that the move was to protect the public from violent confrontations between law enforcement and protesters, who label themselves as water protectors. He also called on the Obama administration to let work on the pipeline move forward, saying, "this hard situation has gone on too long and we need to get it resolved".