After months of protests, the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday gave an ultimatum to the "water protectors" camping near the Cannonball River in North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline

John W. Henderson, a district commander with the Corps, sent a letter to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe on Friday telling them that they had until Dec. 5 to leave the area:

"I am closing the portion of the Corps-managed federal property north of the Cannonball River to all public use and access effective December 5, 2016.

"This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions...

"I do not take this action lightly, but have decided that it is required due to the concern for public safety and the fact that much of this land is leased to private persons for grazing and/or haying purposes as part of the Corps' land management practices. To be clear, this means that no member of the general public, to include Dakota Access pipeline protestors, can be on these Corps' lands."

Henderson said that the Corps will set up a "free speech zone" in another area nearby.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Chairman, Dave Archambault II, responded with a statement of his own, saying that the Tribe is "deeply disappointed," but not enumerating a response:

"Today we were notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that on Dec. 5th, they will close all lands north of the Cannonball River, which is where Oceti Sakowin camp is located. The letter states that the lands will be closed to public access for safety concerns, and that they will allow for a 'free speech zone' south of the Cannonball River on Army Corps lands.

"Our Tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever. We ask that all everyone who can appeal to President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the future of our people and rescind all permits and deny the easement to cross the Missouri River just north of our Reservation and straight through our treaty lands. When Dakota Access Pipeline chose this route, they did not consider our strong opposition...

"We ask that the United States stop the pipeline and move it outside our treaty lands.

"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.”