North Dakota governor, tribal chairman to meet in pipeline dispute

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Police guard a bridge near Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 3, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota, as Native Americans and activists from around the country gather at the camp trying to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

BISMARK, ND — North Dakota’s governor and the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman have agreed to meet in person to discuss the protests over the Dakota Access pipeline.

The Bismarck Tribune reports  that tribal chairman Dave Archambault II says he has spoken with Gov. Jack Dalrymple by phone several times, but not in person since the large protests near his reservation have been going on.

Dalrymple said in a statement that it is “important that we do not let this issue divide us as a state” and that the focus will be on cooperation and goodwill.

The governor’s spokesman says no date has been set for the meeting.

Archambault says “relationships all around have been tainted, and it’s going to take some time to repair.”

A North Dakota sheriff says law enforcement will not clear out the large protest encampment, reiterating what law enforcement authorities have said for days.

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said that authorities are asking the protesters to be peaceful and prayerful. He also asked that they honor the federal government’s wish for them to clear off of federal land by Monday, as well as the governor’s order to evacuate for safety reasons.

Laney, however, said authorities won’t be “moving on that camp” on Monday or “in the future.”

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier says that “having aggression toward law enforcement … is not gonna solve this problem.”

The protesters have camped on federal land for several months over the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline and say they don’t intend to move.

North Dakota emergency management officials say they are prepared to help  protesters who may need help during a winter storm or some other crisis.

State Homeland Security Director Greg Wilz says it would be a challenge during a mass evacuation, but the state will be “humane in anything and everything” it does.

Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Keller says all the responding officers are now from North Dakota and “more than prepared” for harsh conditions with warming houses and cold weather gear.

The government has ordered protesters to leave the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires camp, on federal land in southern North Dakota by Monday. Demonstrators say they’re prepared to stay until changes are made to the route of the four-state, $3.8-billlion pipeline.