(Adds governor's comments, other details)
By Terray Sylvester
CANNON BALL, N.D. Nov 30 More than 2,000 U.S.
military veterans plan to form a human shield to protect
protesters of a pipeline project near a Native American
reservation in North Dakota, organizers said, just ahead of a
federal deadline for activists to leave the camp they have been
It comes as North Dakota law enforcement backed away from a
previous plan to cut off supplies to the camp - an idea quickly
abandoned after an outcry and with law enforcement's treatment
of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters increasingly under the
The protesters have spent months rallying against plans to
route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake
near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying it poses a
threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.
Protesters include various Native American tribes as well as
environmentalists and even actors including Shailene Woodley.
State officials issued an order on Monday for activists to
vacate the Oceti Sakowin camp, located on U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers land near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, citing harsh
The state's latest decision not to stop cars entering the
protest site indicated local officials will not actively enforce
Monday's emergency order to evacuate the camp issued by Governor
Dalrymple warned on Wednesday that it was "probably not
feasible" to reroute the pipeline, but said he had requested a
meeting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council to rebuild a
"We need to begin now to talk about how we are going to
return to a peaceful relationship," he said on a conference
The 1,172-mile (1,885 km) pipeline project, owned by
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, is mostly
complete, except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a
reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.
Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, a contingent of more than
2,000 U.S. military veterans, intends to go to North Dakota by
this weekend and form a human wall in front of police, protest
organizers said on a Facebook page. Organizers could not
immediately be reached for comment.
"I figured this was more important than anything else I
could be doing," Guy Dull Knife, 69, a Vietnam War Army veteran,
told Reuters at the main camp.
Dull Knife, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe from the
Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota, said he has been camping
at the protest site for months.
Morton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Rob Keller said in
an email his agency was aware of the veterans' plans, but would
not comment further on how law enforcement will deal with
Former U.S. Marine Michael A. Wood Jr is leading the effort
along with Wesley Clark Jr, a writer whose father is retired
U.S. Army General Wesley Clark.
U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii
and a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, has said on
Twitter she will join the protesters on Sunday.
The Army Corps, citing safety concerns, has ordered the
evacuation of the primary protest camp by Dec. 5, but said it
would not forcibly remove people from the land.
Local law enforcement said on Tuesday they planned a
blockade of the camp, but local and state officials later
retreated, saying they would only check vehicles for certain
prohibited supplies like propane, and possibly issue fines.
Dalrymple on Wednesday said state officials never
contemplated forcibly removing protesters and there had been no
plans to block food or other supplies from the camp. "That would
be a huge mistake from a humanitarian standpoint," he said on
the conference call.
He also warned protesters that while emergency responders
will try to reach anyone in need, that would be contingent on
Protesters, who refer to themselves as "water protectors,"
have been gearing up for the winter while they await the Army
Corps decision on whether to allow Energy Transfer Partners to
tunnel under the river. That decision has been delayed twice by
the Army Corps.
(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston and Alex
Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by
Jeffrey Benkoe and Matthew Lewis)