Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member on protests: ‘We are in for the long haul’

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(Credit: Morton County Sheriff)

The people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline are staying put.

“We expect a win,” said Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “We are in for the long haul.”

Speaking with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” on Monday, Iron Eyes and Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said they will continue their protest, despite a December 5 deadline to vacate an area where they’ve set up camp.

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.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple ordered protesters to clear out immediately because their temporary dwellings have not been inspected and approved for harsh winter conditions. A statement cited concerns for public safety and health.

Arrests or not, Iron Eyes explained why this is reminiscent of the country’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.

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.

Archambault said the accusations against the protesters are false, and that it’s police who are being violent.

“They are the ones who are bringing the aggression,” he said. “They’re the ones who are using weapons.”

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.