NEW: Sheriff says he will "passively" enforce governor's order to vacate immediately
Tribe member says demand for protesters to move recalls country's past treatment of Native Americans
The tribe's chairman on police: "They are the ones that are bringing the aggression"
The people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline are staying put.
Since late summer, protesters have stood beside members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota who believe the $3.7 billion pipeline project, which would move 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day across four states, would affect its drinking water supply and place downstream communities at risk of contamination from potential oil spills.
In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said the protest would continue even though protesters have been ordered to vacate an area where they have set up camp by next Monday.
“We are in for the long haul,” said Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Pressure grows, protesters dig in
The Army Corps of Engineers said in a letter Friday that people who refuse to leave could be arrested, but have since said that they have no plans to forcibly remove anyone.
Now, less than a week before the deadline, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has ordered protesters to clear out immediately, citing a reason other than trespassing: harsh winter conditions.
In a statement, he said the protesters’ temporary dwellings have yet to be inspected and approved, and failure to do so posed serious public safety concerns. He added that first responders would no longer be responsible for providing emergency services to those who remained.
Arrests or not, Iron Eyes explained why this is reminiscent of the country’s past treatment of Native Americans.
In other words, there will not be a road block, but anyone entering the area will be notified that they are trespassing and penalized accordingly.
Native Americans reminded of past treatment
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member Chase Iron Eyes, the initial threats of arrest have brought back memories of the government’s past treatment of Native Americans.
“You have a government agency trying to declare us trespassers on our own treaty land and threatening to penalize us, criminally charge us and possibly forcibly round us up if we don’t return to the reservation,” he said. “It’s very eerie and we’re trying to stay strong through all of this.”
The pipeline was originally slated to lie north of Bismarck, North Dakota, in an area that did not cross Native American reservations. The current proposed route, however, would take it through four states, stretching 1,172 miles to connect areas with oil in North Dakota to southern Illinois.
It would cut through the Sioux Tribe’s reservation, and the tribe says it could potentially destroy sacred lands and prevent access to clean drinking water.
“We’re trying to stay strong through all of this,” he said.
Accusations of violence from both sides
Over the months of protest, the tribe has been joined by multiple groups and activists. They maintain that they have been peaceful, but last week things turned violent. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office said protesters set fires while officers tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas, rubber bullets and water sprayed from hoses attached to fire engines.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office said protesters set fires while officers tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas, rubber bullets and water sprayed from hoses attached to fire engines.
Archambault said the accusations against the protesters are false, and that it’s police who are being violent.
“They’re the ones who are using weapons,” he said.
He said the letter from the Army Corps will only make things worse.
“By sending out a letter saying you have until December 5 … it just escalates and causes more concern for safety for everybody,” he said.
CNN’s Tony Marco contributed to this report.