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U.S. Veterans Made History at Standing RockTim King Special to Salem-News.com
Thousands of veterans joined the Standing Rock Sioux in an unprecedented show of force that brought an end to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
(CANNON BALL, ND) - The event at Standing Rock is giving life to a movement of American people whose unified voice can rise above the grinding of bulldozers and the screams of injured protesters.
It ushers in a new idea of what it means to be American and amplifies the message to police and national guard soldiers that their archaic tactics of violence toward Native people will no longer be tolerated.
The Lakota Sioux have a rich history that hundreds of broken treaties from the US federal government have not diminished. Tribal leaders shared that history with us in words, song and dance.
They offered the veterans war paint before several thousand of us marched to the front lines to confront and test the “oil police” and then a single feather at the conclusion which held incredible meaning.
As one Sioux elder who traveled to Standing Rock from South Dakota told me, "...this is our water and they are our relatives, and as of yesterday, you are all our relatives."
In simple terms, Standing Rock reminded us of what it is like to be American. All of the veterans who came to Standing Rock carried the spirit of the water protectors we vowed to protect.
Nobody was paid, everyone had to endure below freezing temperatures to even be there. It was in no way glamorous but it was glorious. Much blood has been spilled by the Native tribes who stood together at Standing Rock, yet they are still able to withstand police abuse without resorting to violence.
Those who have not witnessed the incredible levels of violence used by the police and North Dakota National Guard should take the time to search YouTube for "Standing Rock police brutality".
It is nearly unfathomable that people who supposedly represent the law of the United States would act in such cruel and inhumane ways. It became so bad so fast, that cities and counties who had loaned officers to DAPL called them back. That violence emboldened thousands to travel to Standing Rock and put an end to it.
“Tonight we will not fight, we will dance!”
I was nearly moved to tears when Rami Bald Eagle, a Cheyenne River Lakota Tribal Leader who announced that the pipeline easement had been denied, said, "It means we are part of America too. Up until this point the American government has failed us, but the American people haven't. So I feel American today."
These words, however honest, were heartbreaking in that they contained the terrible history of the Genocide of Indians at the hands of the federal government. But they also carried a message of great hope.
The immensity of the veterans gathering at Standing Rock is something America has never witnessed, nor will it soon forget. Veterans brought relief to months of fear and suffering at Standing Rock.
The project was nearly complete when it was officially halted. Now we wait for the new presidential administration to see what the next move will be.
Every single veteran I interviewed said they would return if their service was needed. One vet from North Carolina put it this way, "I think a lot of us came here because we've always felt the need to serve and this is a great way that, even as vets, we can help our community and our planet out."
The night after the veterans march, a storm descended on Standing Rock that would collapse several of the 100-man tents that the veterans were sheltered in. Temperatures had dropped to 20 below zero.
As one near tragedy after another took place, other vets opened their space to accept those of us whose living quarters were buried under the fury of Mother Nature.
The storm was as loud as it was cold and fires were extinguished in the event of total collapse. Huddled in emergency blankets, unsure of what would happen next, veterans encouraged one another and did everything they could to help.
Fully separated from the Oregonians I had traveled to Standing Rock with, and most of my gear, I took a ride out of the Standing Rock camp with a group out of Kansas.
We found our way to the Standing Rock Casino, about 20 miles away, and camped out in the casino's pavilion. The tribe wouldn't let us pay for our food, they took care of us in every way possible.
We had come from a freezing battle zone to a warm and comfortable location where we reveled in knowing our efforts had reached deep into the pockets of those who favor an oil pipeline over taking care of the earth.
See Tim King's video report from Standing Rock here:
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