The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as well as thousands of protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline, have been ordered to leave camp by Dec. 5. or face possible jail time.
Through the Morton County Sheriff’s Office, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to Dave Archambault II, the Standing Rock Tribal Chairman on Friday (Nov. 25), citing safety concerns between protesters (also known as water protectors) and police. “This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions,” the letter reads.
The camp rests north of the Cannonball River in southwest North Dakota. It has been the primary area for protesters against the billion dollar project. NPR reports John W. Henderson, district commander of the Corps, says a free speech zone has been set up south of the river, allowing medical teams to have a means of entry.
Releasing a statement through the Stand with Standing Rock site, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II called the news “unfortunate” and asked President Barack Obama to end the project from coming to fruition. “It is both unfortunate and ironic that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving – a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe,” Archambault said. “Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the treatment of our people. We have suffered much, but we still have hope that the President will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people and especially our children.”
In the past few weeks, protests have come to dangerous highs. Footage seen from the camp site showed police spraying water cannons at peaceful protests while others were trapped on bridges and subjected to rubber bullets and tear gas. Police have defended their actions to reduce reported rioting.