- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2016

The thousands of anti-pipeline protesters creating mayhem in rural North Dakota are wearing out their welcome with some members of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Robert Fool Bear Sr., a tribal district chairman, said the outside activists camping out near Cannon Ball are creating headaches for the locals as the Dakota Access pipeline protest approaches three months.

As far as Mr. Fool Bear is concerned, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II should tell them to pack their bags.

“If he had any balls, he’d tell [the protesters] to go home,” Mr. Fool Bear told CNN, as two women from the tribe nodded in agreement.

He made the comments after the protest blew up Thursday when local law enforcement in riot gear moved in to clear out protesters who had built a camp on private property owned by the development company to block the pipeline.

Officers made 142 arrests, bringing the total number of arrests since Aug. 10 to 411, after activists burned cars, set multiple fires along roads and bridges, and threw rocks and homemade bottle explosives. One woman fired multiple shots at the police line, but no one was injured, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

“The bridge and Highway 1806 remain closed due to the damage and debris on the bridge,” the department said Saturday. “According to the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the bridge is unsafe for anyone to cross until all damage to the structure is evaluated.”

Activists, meanwhile, blamed law enforcement for escalating tensions. Officers brought in from six states to help the rural department used pepper spray, beanbags and sponge rounds against the protesters, the sheriff said.

Mr. Archambault called Thursday for the Justice Department to intervene and hold the state and county “accountable for their acts of violence against innocent, prayerful people.”

“We need our state and federal governments to bring justice and peace to our lands, not the force of armored vehicles,” he said in a statement.

The protesters, whose main camp is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, have urged the Obama administration to halt the 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline project as agencies undergo a review of the tribal consultation process.

Mr. Fool Bear said the tribe recently voted on whether to allow the protesters to build more permanent structures on the reservation for the winter. Of the 88 who voted, 66 opposed the plan.

The tribal council ultimately voted 8-5 last week to allow the protesters to erect housing, but a protest organizer unaffiliated with the tribe, Cody Hall of South Dakota, said it was too late.

“Some people might move, but I don’t think the majority of them will,” Mr. Hall told The Associated Press. “The [Standing Rock] tribe sat on its heels too long, and people started losing faith.”

Mr. Fool Bear said few Standing Rock Sioux members are participating in the protest camps. The sheriff’s department reported that the vast majority of those arrested are from outside North Dakota.

“It irks me. People are here from all over the world,” Mr. Fool Bear told CNN. “If they could come from other planets, I think they would.”

The tribe and national environmental groups argue that the pipeline will harm water quality and sacred burial and cultural sites, although the state’s chief archaeologist found no evidence of such sites.

Local radio talk show host Rob Port said the tribal leader’s comments stand in “stark contrast to the impression we’ve gotten from most media reports about the protests, which is that the Native American communities all stand in solidarity in favor of the protests and against the pipeline.”

“That’s obviously not the case,” Mr. Port said on his Say Anything blog. “I don’t know what Mr. Fool Bear’s opinion of the pipeline is, but he’s clearly not in favor of the protests. And who can blame him, given how out of control they’ve gotten?”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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