CANNON BALL, N.D. – Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II called on supporters to take their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline to Washington, D.C., rather than come to North Dakota to protest.
Archambault, who held a conference call with reporters a day after President Donald Trump’s action to advance construction of the controversial pipeline, said the tribe stands by its decision to ask people to leave the pipeline resistance camp near Cannon Ball.
“We’re asking that the camp be cleared and we’re asking that people don’t come,” Archambault said Wednesday, Jan. 25. “There are other ways that you can battle this. I think America has to stand up and we all have to go to D.C.”
Archambault urged people to contact their Congressional leaders with their concerns about the pipeline. He said the tribe has recently tried to reach out to the Trump administration, but the attempts have been unsuccessful.
“We need to be heard. This is exactly how they took our lands in the 1800s. They’re doing exactly the same thing again,” Archambault said. “It’s not making America great again, it’s making America worse again. It’s abusing American Indians again. And they’re not giving us an opportunity to voice our concerns.”
Archambault reiterated his concerns about the need for people to leave the camp so the site can be cleaned prior to potential spring flooding of the Cannonball River.
“The one thing that the camp did was it brought world attention to the issue. And we’re thankful for that,” he said. “And I believe that it served its purpose.”
Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol Wednesday, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said the state is focused on spring flooding, which he called a “life safety situation.”
“It doesn’t matter what happens in Washington, D.C., it doesn’t matter (what happens with the easement). That doesn’t change Mother Nature’s timetable,” Burgum said. “If we don’t evacuate and get all the debris, the cars, the buildings and everything that are illegally on federal property … then we’re creating a water disaster that we were trying to prevent, which would be a sad irony.”
Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, joined Archambault in calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue the environmental review of Dakota Access that was initiated under the Obama administration.
Trump’s action directed federal agencies including the Army Corps to expedite reviews and approve the $3.8 billion pipeline. It is not yet clear if the environmental impact statement that was ordered on Jan. 18 can be rescinded.
“Tribal leaders have spoken loud and clear that we’re not against development, but our legitimate right as sovereign governments to be heard in the permitting process cannot be ignored,” Cladoosby said.
The environmental impact statement aimed to address alternative locations for the pipeline crossing Lake Oahe, less than a mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and information on the extent and location of the tribe’s treaty rights in Lake Oahe.
It also included studying potential risks and impacts of an oil spill to Lake Oahe, the tribe’s water intakes and the tribe’s water, treaty, fishing and hunting rights.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Army Corps last July, challenging the initial set of decisions that allowed the pipeline to move forward.
The parties in that lawsuit, including Dakota Access LLC that intervened in the case, are scheduled for a status conference on Monday, Jan. 30, to discuss the impact of Trump’s action on pending motions in the case.
Forum News Service reporter John Hageman contributed to this article.