Pipeline protesters say they'll stay, despite order to leave by Dec. 5

They're asked to move to a "free speech zone" south of the Cannonball River.

Standing Rock protesters are being asked to leave their encampment by Dec. 5.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with other tribes and activists, have been protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota for months.

And now they're being told to leave.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to tribal leaders over the weekend, saying areas of the Corps-managed federal property that's north of the Cannonball River will be closed to the public starting Dec. 5, the agency said in a news release Sunday. That includes the Oceti Sakowin, one of three encampments of water protectors who are protesting the $3.8 billion pipeline.

In the letter, the Army Corps of Engineers says it's "seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location, and has no plans for forcible removal," urging protesters to move to the "free speech zone" that's south of the Cannonball River.

Those who decide to stay are doing so at their own risk and could be subject to prosecution, the letter adds.

Tribal leaders respond

Protesters have no plans to leave.

"We are staying here committed to our prayer," Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said at a news conference Saturday, according to Reuters. "Forced removal and state oppression? This is nothing new to us as native people."

Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, released a statement Saturday saying he is "deeply disappointed" by the eviction decision. He added:

It is both unfortunate and ironic that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving – a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe. Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the treatment of our people. We have suffered much, but we still have hope that the president will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people and especially our children.

Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe also responded to the Army Corps of Engineers letter. You can read his response here.

Tribes and water conservation activists are protesting the pipeline, arguing it could harm their drinking water and cultural sites. However, Energy Transfer Partners – which is developing the four-state, 1,200-mile pipeline – says it'll be safe.

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