- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2017

Dave Archambault II, the tribal chairman who urged activists to “stand with Standing Rock” against the Dakota Access pipeline, has been overwhelmingly defeated in his reelection bid to lead the protest-weary tribe.

Mike Faith, a Standing Rock Sioux tribal council member and wildlife official, won the Wednesday election by 63 to 37 percent versus Mr. Archambault in a race that saw about 1,700 votes cast, according to results released Thursday.

Mr. Archambault became an international figure in the anti-pipeline movement during the tumultuous 2016 protest against the 1,172-mile, four-state project, which drew thousands of protesters to the remote North Dakota prairie.

Mr. Faith, who has served on the tribal council for 18 years, isn’t a pipeline fan —he opposes the project running underneath Lake Oahe about a half-mile from the reservation — but said that the issue drew attention from other pressing tribal needs.

“We kind of neglected our own,” Mr. Faith told the Associated Press. “We did what we had to do, but we didn’t realize we were going to hurt our economy that much.”

The protest, which kicked into high gear in August 2016 and ended with a massive federal clean-up that wrapped up in March, was aimed at blocking the $3.8 billion oil pipeline over concerns about water quality and historic relics.

It didn’t work — the pipeline went into service in June — but the sometimes violent rolling protests and clashes with law enforcement forced the closure of a nearby highway and bridge, scaring off tourists and making it difficult to reach the tribal casino, a key revenue source for the tribe.

“People want to see how we can fix ourselves,” Mr. Faith said. “We have to look at not depending on the casino so much. We have to look at enticing companies to come down here.”

In a Thursday statement, Mr. Archambault said he would remain active in tribal affairs. He was elected chairman in 2013.

“I will continue to advocate for the issues facing our community and look forward to exploring new opportunities,” he said. “I wish the new administration the best and look forward to a smooth transition, ensuring that we do not lose the powerful momentum we have at Standing Rock.”

Mr. Archambault initially encouraged activists to join the pipeline fight but appeared to get more than he bargained for when the crowds set up camp near the reservation on federal land in a floodplain, raising alarm about environmental degradation.

By November, he was urging protesters to leave. The tribal council voted in November to expel the most militant camp, and voted again in January in favor of a resolution to dismantle all the camps.

“The pipeline fight has moved beyond the camps and our strategy must evolve with the process,” Mr. Archambault said in a January statement.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department made 761 arrests during the protest, mainly for trespassing and rioting stemming from protests that blocked roads and the Backwater Bridge, which was damaged after activists set it on fire.

The Standing Rock and other tribes filed a federal lawsuit against the pipeline challenging the environmental review process.

The protest strained relations between the tribe and residents of nearby Bismarck and Mandan, as well as state and federal lawmakers, which was a factor in the election, according to WDAY-AM radio host Rob Port in Minot.

He said a tribal source told him that “Dave lost all his political capital with North Dakota and South Dakota and [Washington] D.C.”

“Archambault may have made himself the darling of left-wing activists around the country, but his fellow tribal members have said they’d rather have someone else lead them,” said Mr. Port on his Say Anything blog.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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