- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming has sent six highway patrol troopers to North Dakota to help authorities deal with Indian protesters demonstrating against the construction of an oil pipeline, prompting objections Tuesday from some Wyoming Indian leaders.

Sending the troopers merely extends emergency help to another state and does not signal that Wyoming has taken a position on the pipeline controversy, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said.

But Dean Goggles, chairman of Northern Arapaho Business Council, called on Mead to recall the troopers immediately.

“The North Dakota tribes and tribal members from around the nation are attempting to protect both the environment and sites which have ceremonial, religious and cultural significance to the tribes,” Goggles said.

More than 100 protesters were arrested last weekend in Morton County, North Dakota, in the faceoff between protesters and Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, developer of the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The $3.8 billion pipeline, most of which has been completed, crosses through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. Opponents worry about potential effects on drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation as well as harm to cultural sites.

Col. Kebin Haller of the Wyoming Highway Patrol said six troopers were sent to North Dakota on Saturday and are expected to remain there until Nov. 8.

The troopers volunteered after the governor of North Dakota declared an emergency and asked other states for law enforcement assistance, Haller said.

The six are members of the patrol’s Special Services Squad who have additional training and equipment to address large crowds and civil unrest, he said. North Dakota will pay their salaries and the costs they incur while at the protest.

Mead said the decision to send Wyoming troopers happened because “a neighbor state asked for help and Wyoming answered the call.”

“North Dakota asked for help from all 50 states so Wyoming and other states responded,” Mead said.

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes in Wyoming have expressed formal support for the protesters.

Jason Baldes, a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and staff member at the Wind River Native Advocacy Center, accused Wyoming officials of supporting the pipeline by sending law enforcement officers to face off against protesters.

“It kind of sheds light on really who’s running the show here,” Baldes said. “The oil and gas industry really has the final say, and has the politicians and our elected leaders in their pockets.”

Mead denied that the decision to send troopers was political.

“The Dakota Access pipeline has no impact on Wyoming and we have not taken a stance on this issue,” he said.

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