By Jerry Alatalo
eterans for Peace has sent out the call to its membership across the United States to support the water protection efforts at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Thousands of men and women veterans from the United States Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy have already arrived or are on their way to the camp, where some 11-12,000 people of all races have gathered to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Arrival of the veterans has created in the minds of many images recalling the atrocities of Wounded Knee where hundreds of innocent Native Americans became victims of mass murder by U.S. government/military forces – leading to calls for restraint and caution to avoid any repeat of that or other historic tragedies. The most remarkable and disturbing aspect of the months-long events in Standing Rock has been the excessive use of violence against those opposing the pipeline’s construction, with opposition efforts carried out using Gandhian-style peaceful protest – prayers, unified purpose, wisdom, and non-violent civil disobedience.
The land on which the thousands protesting the pipeline have gathered was promised by treaties made with the U.S. government in the 1800’s to the Lakota Sioux/Standing Rock tribe. The specific language in those treaties said, “for as long as the sun shines…”. The U.S. Congress in 1954, depending on one’s interpretation, either took possession of the land beneath the camp by “eminent domain” or stole it, with the intended purpose of flooding it as part of a hydroelectric dam project. The dam project never materialized.
The standoff will have to become resolved in the courts, and the water protectors are working to avoid unnecessary violence if law enforcement personnel receive the orders on December 6 to clear the camp and its thousands of residents – now, including a large contingent of U.S. military veterans standing in solidarity for support of the environment, morality and legal justice.
While those who call for the pipeline’s construction have told the American people the project will benefit “all” as part of the nation’s drive toward “energy independence”, apparently the project, if completed, would result in 100% of the fossil fuels transported through those pipes being exported to foreign countries for profit. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent with law enforcement operations to clear the way for private investors to profit, jeopardizing the environment in the process – in particular the drinking water for millions of citizens whose sole source is the Missouri River and/or massive Oglala Aquifer.
U.S. Marine Corps-Korean War veteran and member of the Lakota Sioux tribe, 80-year old Buzz Nelson, has been closely associated with events at Standing Rock; his grandson is the chairman of the Standing Rock tribe, David Archambault. He recently sat down for an interview with fellow Marine Dan Shea, veteran of the Vietnam War, to share thoughts, concerns, and reasons for optimism surrounding the historic events in North Dakota.
For more thorough, in-depth information on the legal situation in North Dakota and effective ways to support the men and women of Standing Rock, please visit: www.LakotaLaw.org
(Thank you to Jim Lockhart at YouTube)