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KPBS Midday Edition

Orders Could Have Little Effect On Pipeline Protest Camp

Protesters gather at an encampment on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, a day after tribal leaders received a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that told them the federal land would be closed to the public on Dec. 5, near Cannon Ball, N.D. The protesters said Saturday that they do not plan to leave and will continue to oppose construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
James MacPherson, AP
Protesters gather at an encampment on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, a day after tribal leaders received a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that told them the federal land would be closed to the public on Dec. 5, near Cannon Ball, N.D. The protesters said Saturday that they do not plan to leave and will continue to oppose construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
San Diego Man Recently Returned From Dakota Access Pipeline Protest
San Diego Man Recently Returned From Dakota Access Pipeline Protest GUEST: Robert Wallace, member, Barona Band of Mission Indians

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I Maureen Cavanaugh. The stakes are getting higher for the protesters have standing rock reservation in North Dakota. This weekend mandatory evacuation order was issued for the protest camp and yesterday law enforcement officials say they would begin blocking supplies to the hundreds of people protesting the Dakota access oil pipeline. The weather has also turned brutal in the air with below freezing temperatures and castings no. San Diego Ansar and have been among those protesters in joining me now is Robert Wallace, a member of the Barona Band of Mission Indians who has recently returned from the standing rock protest welcome to the program. Thank you BRCA2 say. You returned last Friday from the protest they. Humor there on Thursday during the clash between police and protesters. What did you see? It started earlier started the Sunday when we first arrived. We came up and know from the bridge and started watching the crowds and we could hear gunfire, seeing water all in the air as we approach closer we could see people getting hit with the water cannons, there was some caution grenades going off and people standing 15 feet away from the police and there were getting shot at random. Rubber bullets right? Yes. They are pretty big and hit hard. How many days did the clashes go on? It went on for that night for some time in I calm down, I think they are trying to prove a point by humiliating people trying to inflict as much pain in a short amount of time as they can. But how many people would you say are there? When we left was Thanksgiving morning we were blessed by the snow. At that time I think there was upwards of around maybe 12,000. As you say there was no when you left. One of the conditions -- what are the conditions at the site of the protest? The conditions when we saw everything happening that nights, I was on the front line, it was very cold. There was girls that were trying to hold up tarps to keep the fires from getting put out. They look like they had hypothermia. Went down and talk to them and said you have to go. You are not doing anybody any good fight catching pneumonia and dying. There was some that took place at the girls they stay there trying to protect the fires from going out but the cannons are very strong and they were blasting these people around. It was totally unreal. Rubber what did you do there? We took some bedding, food, homemade medicinal supplies from local herbs around here. Things that people can use to survive. Everybody needs food and water. Besides bringing supplies, how did the Kummer protect the water protectors? They have been here with their songs, with our strength from the mountains, our people. Is a lot of people in prayer because this is really a spiritual fight. With the protest, protesting is good. We are protesting for the protection of the water. We are trying to create something within our society that says, enough is enough. We have to stand by one another. Everybody does everybody's lives matter regardless of what organization. People have to stand and people have to stand strong together. If not we are in a heck of a handbasket coming down here in the future. Do think you will go back? Yes, with the recent posts from the governor, it is good to make a stand for what we believe in. I think the 18 million people that are below stream I wish they would all come and join him because they are the ones at the bottom. They are going to be drinking residual. It might not be tomorrow, it might be three 3 to 10 years from now. Is not a good thing. What I do not understand is I do not understand the governor who can set up in his chair like Caesar was so -- with his thumb up and on a whim put his calm down and have all of these people get hurt and humiliated. The atmosphere the wait is now, the idea that the governor has ordered protesters off the land, basically demanded evacuations in the fact that law enforcement says that supplies will not be allowed, it sounds ticket is getting very dangerous. How you feel about going back? I feel good about going back because this is the right thing to do. Many folks around the country feel it is the right thing also. It is protecting the water. Water is life. We made mother Earth bleed so much and it is time to stop. You cannot wake up in the morning and brush your teeth with oil. Everybody takes it for granted here in San Diego we are having a water shortage. We know what it is like not to have water. There is restrictions around here for everybody but over there the water is in abundance and they will put a pipeline under the Missouri River that is one of the biggest Aqua theaters that runs down the country. It is crazy. You are going back on Sunday? Yes. Good luck. Thank you. I've been speaking with Robert Wallace, member of the Barona Band of Mission Indians. Thank you.

Government orders for protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline to leave federal land could have little immediate effect on the encampment where scores of people have been gathered for months to oppose the $3.8 billion project.

A North Dakota sheriff on Monday dismissed a deadline from the Army Corps of Engineers as a meaningless move aimed only at reducing the government's legal responsibility for hundreds of demonstrators.

The Corps "is basically kicking the can down the road, and all it is doing is taking the liability from the Corps and putting it on" the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said.


The Corps said last week in a letter that all federal lands north of the Cannonball River would be closed to the public for "safety concerns" starting Dec. 5. The order includes the encampment called Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires camp.

The agency cited North Dakota's oncoming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters and police.

But in a statement issued late Sunday, the Corps said it "has no plans for forcible removal." Anyone on land north of the river, including the main protest camp, after the deadline may be prosecuted for trespassing.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple called the Corps' position "very puzzling."

"When you put out a pronouncement that people must leave your land by a certain date, I think you take on a responsibility to somehow bring that about," Dalrymple said. "Clearly the responsibility of clearing that land now lies primarily with the Corps."


But later on Monday, Dalrymple issued his own "mandatory evacuation" for the camp "to safeguard against harsh winter conditions." But the order didn't specify any action to be taken against protesters who don't comply, and state Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong later said no action would be taken to enforce it.

In a statement released Monday night, Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault called Dalrymple's order "a menacing action meant to cause fear, and is a blatant attempt by the state and local officials to usurp and circumvent federal authority."

The 1,172-mile pipeline is nearly complete except for a small section beneath a Missouri River reservoir near the encampment, which is about 50 miles south of Bismarck.

Opponents, who call themselves "water protectors," worry about potential effects on drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and farther downstream on the Missouri River, as well as destruction of cultural artifacts, including burial sites. They also believe the land near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers is still rightfully owned by the Standing Rock Sioux under a nearly 150-year-old treaty.

County and state officials have been seeking federal law enforcement help for months and were initially buoyed by the Corps' order for protesters to move off the land. The agency's later announcement that it would not forcibly evict any demonstrators dampened hopes that the issue would soon be resolved, Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz said.

"It's useless for local and state law enforcement, and the order from the Corps is self-serving and amounts to them limiting their liability," Schulz said.

The sheriff said state and local officials lack jurisdiction to remove the protesters.

"This is a federal problem and needs to be dealt with by them," Kirchmeier said.

During a news conference Saturday at the camp, protest organizers said they will not leave or stop their acts of civil disobedience.

North Dakota's notoriously brutal winters may help empty the camp of protesters, many of them who are from out of state, Kirchmeier said.

"That's what I'm hoping, or at least cut the number of them," he added.

Much of the state, including the encampment, was getting hit with the first big winter storm of the year Monday, as heavy snow and strong winds pounded the area.

The sheriff said snowplow crews were working to clear roads throughout the county, but about a mile of a state highway leading to the encampment was being left unplowed.

"Workers do not feel safe there," he said.