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Vol. 80/No. 47      December 19, 2016

(front page)

Protesters cheer Standing Rock victory, say ‘fight not over yet’

OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP, N.D. — “We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said Dec. 5, hailing the victory won when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross Lake Oahe here, and announced it will begin looking for alternative routes for the oil pipeline.

“We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause,” Archambault said. “We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water.

“We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need,” he said. Hundreds of Native Americans from all across the country have come to back the Standing Rock Sioux in their monthslong fight to protect their water supply, tribal burial grounds and sacred cultural lands.

The decision of the Barack Obama administration to back down and halt efforts to run the pipeline through the area follows a marked escalation of attacks on the protesters by state and local authorities. They have used rubber bullets, pepper spray, explosive grenades and water cannons against the thousands of “water protectors.”

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Nov. 28 that he was ordering evacuation of the area, citing “anticipated harsh weather conditions.”

In response to this order and recent attacks, a group of armed forces veterans named Veterans Stand for Standing Rock announced they were organizing to come to the reservation and lend a hand. Over 2,000 veterans volunteered to participate. Organizers said they would serve as “human shields” between protesters and the cops.

They were also raising funds to build housing, heating and medical facilities to enable protesters to make it through the winter. Through Nov. 30 over half a million dollars has been donated.

During the evening of Dec. 4 there was a mile-long line of cars waiting to get into the main camp. “The way the militarized police were treating U.S. citizens broke my heart,” Wayland McIntire, a retired and disabled Army veteran from Oklahoma, told the Militant. “I came here to stand between the police and the protesters. Working people need to be more active.”

Manuel Valenzuela, a Vietnam veteran, came from Colorado Springs. He told us he is facing deportation for a more than 20-year-old misdemeanor.

“I got pissed off when I saw the violence being used against the protesters,” he said. “In the military we took an oath to protect U.S. citizens against enemies foreign and domestic. Well, here the domestic enemy is the U.S. government.”

Art Woodson and two other vets drove 17 hours straight from Flint, Michigan, to join in defending the protest. Workers in Flint have faced a health crisis because government authorities let water laced with lead from rotting pipes poison children there.

“In Flint water is in dire need,” the 49-year-old Gulf War Army veteran told the Associated Press. “In North Dakota they’re trying to force a pipeline on people here. And in Flint we’re trying to get pipes for safe water.”

Many protesters said the mobilization against the pipeline is the largest outpouring of Native Americans in decades. The decision of the government to deny a permit for the pipeline, which threatens the Standing Rock Sioux and their sacred ground, is a “victory for all of Indian Country,” said Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians.

Other recent arrivals here include a contingent of U.S.- based medical professionals who got their training at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba. They said they came “to humbly serve in solidarity with the Sacred Water Protectors on the front lines of the current human rights and ecological crisis occurring right now in North Dakota.”

“This is an enormous victory,” said White Buffalo Boy, a Hunkpapa Sioux, speaking for the Voice of the Camp at a news conference here Dec. 5. “But last night the lights were still on at the pipeline site, and the company’s helicopters were still busy. Until we go to the drill pad and see they are no longer drilling, this is not over,” he said.

The company says they are going to finish the pipeline without changing the route. Their lawyers went into federal court Dec. 5 to seek a judgment against the Corps decision.

“The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency,” Energy Transfer Partners, the owners of the pipeline, said in a Dec. 4 statement.  
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