(Adds comment from tribal news conference)
By Terray Sylvester
CANNON BALL, N.D. Nov 28 North Dakota's
governor ordered the expulsion of thousands of Native American
and environmental activists camped on federal property near an
oil pipeline project they are trying to halt, citing hazards
posed by harsh weather as a blizzard bore down on the area.
The "emergency evacuation" order from Governor Jack
Dalrymple came days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
which manages the site, set a Dec. 5 deadline for the
demonstrators to vacate their encampment, about 45 miles (72 km)
south of Bismarck, the state capital.
The Army Corps has insisted, however, that it has no plans
to forcibly remove protesters, many of them members of the
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The agency instead urged a "peaceful
and orderly transition to a safer location."
Late Monday, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II
denounced Dalrymple's order as a "menacing action meant to cause
fear," and accused the Republican governor of trying to "usurp
and circumvent federal authority."
Archambault noted that the evacuation order, which the
governor said he issued for the campers' well-being in the face
of dangerous winter weather, came a week after police turned
water hoses on protesters in sub-freezing temperatures.
Activists have spent months protesting against plans to
route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake
near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying the project
poses a threat to water resources and sacred Native American
The governor did not specify how he intended to enforce his
order other than by directing state and local agencies to refuse
emergency assistance and other services to anyone who remained
at the site. He said the order was effective immediately and
would stay in force "until rescinded."
But Standing Rock Sioux spokeswoman Phyllis Young told a
news conference Monday night the tribe would stand its ground.
"We have lived for generations in this setting. That is our
camp. We will continue to provide for our people there," she
said. "This is Lakota territory. This is treaty territory, and
no one else has jurisdiction there."
Protest leaders suggested a forced evacuation could prove
more dangerous to the activists than staying put.
"We're in the heart of winter now. To even think of a forced
removal is terrifying," said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with
Indigenous Environmental Network, who estimated there were about
5,000 people in the camp.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier added to the pressure
by issuing a video statement urging protesters to avoid
subjecting themselves to "life-threatening conditions" by
remaining exposed to the elements with little shelter.
The National Weather Service has posted a storm warning for
most of western and central North Dakota, forecasting the
possibility of heavy snow through Wednesday.
The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline project is mostly
complete except for a segment that is supposed to run under Lake
Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.
The Obama administration in September postponed final
approval of an Army Corps permit required to allow tunneling
beneath the lake, a move intended to give federal officials more
time to consult tribal leaders. The delay also led to escalating
tension over the project.
The companies say the pipeline would carry Bakken shale oil
more cheaply and safely from North Dakota to Illinois en route
to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries than it could be shipped by
railroad or tanker trucks.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Writing
by Steve Gorman; Editing by Leslie Adler, Robert Birsel)