- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Standing Rock Sioux chairman rebuked activists arrested Wednesday for setting up a camp on private property in the latest example of tension between the tribe and law-breaking Dakota Access pipeline protesters.

Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said the activists behind the now-dismantled Last Child Camp had undermined the movement against the pipeline by disregarding the tribe’s repeated pleas to leave the protest camps.

Local authorities arrested 76 protesters who refused to exit the hastily constructed collection of teepees and tried to block law enforcement from reaching what the Morton County Sheriff’s Department described as the “rogue camp.”

“Those who planned to occupy the new camp are putting all of our work at risk,” Mr. Archambault said in a statement. “They also put people’s lives at risk. We have seen what brutality law enforcement can inflict with little provocation. There could be sacred sites on that property. These continuing actions in the face of the tribes’ plea to stand down only harm the cause that everyone came here to support.”

He repeated the tribe’s call for supporters not to return to the camps. Several hundred people remain as work gets underway to clear debris and garbage from the area, which was occupied at various times by thousands before winter hit.

“The fight is no longer here, but in the halls and courts of the federal government,” Mr. Archambault said. “Here at the camp, those who remain should be working together to help clean and restore the land.”

Activists repeatedly have defied the tribe’s call for “peaceful and prayerful” protest, arguing that the fight against the 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline is bigger than the Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation runs about a half-mile from the project.

Salvador Sumaran-Lopez said on Facebook that he respects Mr. Archambault’s memo, “but this battle taking place on the Sioux nation is NOT just a Sioux war but a war of all Americans and humanity, the battleground may be on your land but the outcome will affect us all.”

Since August, authorities have made 696 arrests of mostly out-of-state activists who have blocked highways and bridges, trespassed on private property owned by Energy Transfer Partners, and hurled rocks, feces and other projectiles at police.

Pipeline foes were alarmed when two North Dakota lawmakers said Tuesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to proceed with the easement on the disputed 1,100-foot stretch of the project.

Mr. Archambault acknowledged that the protesters don’t always listen to him.

“When I talk to people at the camp, they say I only talk for my tribe, which is true,” he said. “They say I am not their leader, and I agree. I was elected by members of my tribe. It is this tribe, the Standing Rock Sioux, whose land is most at risk. It is also our court case at risk, but in reality, all of our treaty rights are at risk. If we want to be treated as nations, then we must behave as such.

“In these past few weeks at camp, I see no reflection of our earlier unity, and without unity we lose,” he added.

Deputies asked “rogue protesters” to leave the camp Wednesday, “but the protesters refused to do so and began to use active resistance techniques,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement.

“Our law enforcement officers conducted themselves in a safe and responsible manner,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. “Regardless of this incident it is our desire to continue the dialogue with tribal and camp leaders so that the camps continue to be cleaned and protesters leave prior to the flooding season.”

The tribe is trying to steer protesters to a March 10 event called the Rise with Standing Rock Native Nations March on Washington.

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

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