'Time to go home,' tribal chair tells Dakota Access protesters

Cheers erupt at Camp Oceti Sakowin
Cheers erupt at Camp Oceti Sakowin on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, as news spread that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers won't grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Doualy Xaykaothao | MPR News

Updated 3:44 p.m. | Posted 11:59 a.m.

With federal officials putting the brakes on construction of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, a key tribal leader is urging protesters to disband for the winter and return to their families. It's not clear if they will.

"The purpose has been served and it's time to go home," Standing Rock Tribal Chair Dave Archambault told KFGO radio Monday.

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"I understand that they're concerned, that it's not over, they can't trust the federal government" but "nothing's going to happen this winter," he told the Fargo, N.D., station.

Standing Rock Tribal Chair David Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II speaks at a community forum on November 28, 2016.
Angela Jimenez for MPR News

Fireworks and songs rang out across the Oceti Sakowin protest camp on Sunday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would not grant an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline in southern North Dakota.

MPR News correspondent Doualy Xaykaothao reported from the protest camp that people seemed divided on their next steps as word began circulating through the camp of Archambault's call to go home.

"A lot of folks were still celebrating" the government's Sunday decision to stop construction, she said. "The idea that people should go home after such a victory, obviously there's some disappointment here."

"All I can do is hope and pray" protesters will leave," Archambault told the station. He said he was thankful for the worldwide attention the protesters brought to the issue but "we don't need any more actions. We don't need any more confrontations. What we need is to be home with our families."

Archambault said he didn't believe the government would forcibly remove anyone who chose to stay.

He also said he hoped to meet with President-elect Donald Trump, a Dakota Access pipeline supporter, to establish a relationship and let him know the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to reject an easement to allow the pipeline to be built on the current proposed route was the right move.

"The tribe has been forgiving for over 200 years," he said. "We have to take the next step on this issue and get over it and start working together again."