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Tribe asks pipeline opponents to boycott Bismarck businesses

Posted November 25
Updated November 26

— The leader of the Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota is calling for all opponents of the Dakota Access oil pipeline to boycott businesses in North Dakota's capital, a move Bismarck's city administrator says is uncalled for and disappointing.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council voted in September to not spend money in Bismarck and neighboring Mandan, and Chairman Harold Frazier at the time called on all tribal members to join the effort. Earlier this week, he sought to broaden the boycott to make a statement against what he calls "heavy-handed, illegal and violent oppression" of people who have protested against the pipeline for months.

"I ask that all people who oppose this kind of violence against unarmed and peaceful people begin to consider when to keep their cash in pocket as well," Frazier wrote in a letter Tuesday addressed to tribal leaders and supporters.

Authorities maintain that not all protesters have been peaceful, and described some protest events as "riots."

Bismarck City Administrator Keith Hunke said Friday the boycott is disappointing given that the city's businesses aren't involved in the dispute over the $3.8 billion pipeline that's to carry North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois.

"They really don't have any part in any of the concerns expressed by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation," Hunke said, adding that no businesses have reported an impact from boycotts.

The Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes are fighting the project because they fear it will harm drinking water and cultural sites. Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners disputes that and says the 1,200-mile pipeline through the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois will be safe.

The pipeline is nearly complete outside of a stretch beneath a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota, just to the north of the Standing Rock reservation.

Hunke said increasingly frequent protest activity in the Bismarck-Mandan area is "an inconvenience" but hasn't cut into business's bottom lines.

"We've had some of our streets blocked for a period of time, but generally after a period of time the protesters disband and business gets back to normal," he said.

More than 560 protesters have been arrested since August in the Bismarck-Mandan area and at the main protest camp about 50 miles south of the city, including more than 30 at a Bismarck mall on Friday — one of the busiest days of the year. Police said protesters gathered for a prayer at Kirkwood Mall, and some refused to leave the entrance to a Target store when ordered.

A clash earlier this week near the main protest camp left a police officer and several protesters injured, including Sophia Wilansky, who suffered a serious arm injury and is in satisfactory condition in a Minneapolis hospital.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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