In the latest development in the ongoing saga at Standing Rock – where indigenous communities have taken a stand against big interests forcing an oil pipeline through sacred lands, threatening the drinking water of nearby native communities – thousands of military veterans intend to create a human shield between the protestors (i.e., water protectors) and the authorities who have exercised ruthless violence to vacate the area of demonstrators.
The group of military heroes – called Veterans Stand For Standing Rock – has organized to help protestors contend with the “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.”
The tension along the pipeline’s route has reached a boiling point. Recent police brutality has resulted in a number of serious injuries. One water protector may go blind after a tear gas canister struck her in the face. Additionally, authorities have indicated an end-game, with North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple ordering an immediate vacation of indigenous encampments.
Earlier this fall, dozens of tribes from around the country joined with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to defeat the construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline, which cuts through tribal and sacred lands. The pipeline was rerouted through indigenous land after predominantly white communities claimed that its construction threatened their access to clean water, making this recent abuse of indigenous tribes just the latest in a long-line of colonial devaluation at the hands of authorities.
It has been difficult enough for indigenous activists to receive support an the federal level, but the next administration will likely be even worse. As an example of one of the myriad conflicts of interest that should disqualify Trump from occupying the white house, the demagogue reality TV star has financial stake in the North Dakota Access Pipeline.
The arrival of military veterans intervening on behalf of indigenous communities will be a reprieve. In a conversation with Reuters, one of the participating veterans, Guy Dull Knife, told a reporter, “”I figured this was more important than anything else I could be doing.”
As more individuals see the value of committing themselves to community empowerment and social movement transformation, those passionate about a more positive vision of society (in contravention to Trump’s cynical and hateful vision) will have a chance to mitigate the damage wrought by the incoming neophyte president, and can hold on to a degree of hope during this pivotal historical moment.