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Veterans and Native Water Protectors Call Out the Army Corps for Selling Out the Dakota Access Pipeline

Less than two months after agreeing to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the Army Corps of Engineers – under orders from Trump – called it off. On February 7th, they announced they would give the final go-ahead to complete the pipeline, a $3.8 billion “Black Snake” that will traverse unceded Sioux land and cross under the Missouri River, threatening the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the millions of folks living downriver.

The Army Corps’ cancellation of the EIS was in blatant disregard of the hundreds of thousands of comments that had been submitted during the initial public comment period. But Water Protectors nationwide weren’t going to let that slide. So on Wednesday morning, veterans from Iraq Veterans Against the War and young Indigenous leaders from NYC Stands with Standing Rock went to hand-deliver the half-million comments to the Corps’ District Engineer, with whom they had met just two months prior.

There, veterans and Indigenous leaders had a frank and emotional discussion with Army Corps leadership. Young Indigenous leaders spoke of the struggles of their community and the Army’s role in that struggle, while veterans warned them off the path they walked; following orders they wish they hadn’t. “There are almost half a million voices behind us right now who took the time to comment, to say that this isn’t right and this is unjust,” said Anne Spice, Tlingit, Kwanlin Dun First Nation. “And the message we’re getting right now is that those voices don’t matter. We want to hear about what you can do to push back against this.” In addition to reading comments submitted from the public, Water Protectors offered their own personal stakes in their fight against DAPL. Nicole Goodwin, a U.S. Army Veteran said, “As a parent, I strongly feel that water is life, and this is something that we all share. This is something we have in common with the land. I am trying to appeal to your humanity right now.”

After Water Protectors read just a few powerful comments, Homeland Security officers interrupted the meeting and forcibly removed the veterans and Indigenous leaders, over the objections of the Army Corps staff. “This is Indigenous land!” said Monte Stevens, an enrolled member of the Colorado River Indian Tribe, as officers pushed the group out of the building.

Meanwhile, thousands of folks were gathering in response to a call for Wednesday as an international day of action by the Indigenous Coalition at Standing Rock. At nearly 60 events in 23 states, people mustered at banks, Army Corps offices, city halls, sheriffs’ offices, and more to interrupt business as usual in a global show of solidarity and resistance. In San Francisco, activists blockaded the Federal Building. In Portland, the crowd spilled into the street in front of the local Army Corps office. There, Veterans and Indigenous leaders from Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, and Native Veterans attempted to deliver comments to the Division Commander, only to have the doors bolted against them. After the group began reading the comments aloud outside, the Division Commander’s Secretary unlocked the doors and agreed to deliver them.

In Washington, DC, hundreds gathered at the White House, creating a clear rebuke to Trump’s absurd claim that the pipeline had no opposition (“You know, I approved them and I haven’t even heard one call from anybody saying, ‘oh, that was a terrible thing you did,’” he told reporters on Tuesday).

Of course, there is another way to kill the pipeline: bankrupt it. And the DAPL Divest movement is getting more powerful by the day. On February 6, activists won an incredible victory when the city of Seattle voted to divest from Wells Fargo over its funding of the pipeline. Losing Seattle means Wells Fargo is out more than $3 billion per year.

It’s not just Wells Fargo feeling the heat. Citigroup and TD Bank have been the targets of multiple major campaigns to get them to pull out, with activists flooding their phone lines and customers all over the country closing their accounts. And as the resistance grows, none of the 17 banks funding DAPL are safe. Multiple tribes have moved their money out of all DAPL-affiliated banks, including the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota. The victorious DefundDAPL – Seattle Action Coalition has even created an online toolkit for anyone to launch a divestment campaign in their own cities and towns.

The Indigenous-led movement that grew out of DAPL resistance can’t be crushed or ground down by disappointment. And it’s not accepting defeat. In the words of Samantha K’_alaag’aa Jaat Haida, Tlingit and Iñupiaq: “We are here with veterans, and people who have served this country, and we are here as Indigenous people to work together. Because we rise together and our voices were heard. And they will be tomorrow. And the next day. We will not be silent. We will resist. This pipeline will not be built.

Written by Caitlyn McClure

Caitlyn is a rabble-rouser and writer based in Olympia, WA. She is a copywriter and logistics specialist for Tiny Pixel Collective, a web shop providing activists and artists with the tools they need to tell stories that inspire change.