Amber Cross, 30, sat atop a run-down military truck facing the barricade erected by Dakota Access pipeline security that cut off Backwater bridge, which was too enshrouded by falling snow to see, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.
Drums beat and 24 miles per hour winds howled as veterans and water protectors marched in victory of the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to decline the easement, deferring and rerouting construction of the Dakota Access pipeline until further investigation for an Environmental Impact Statement.
Cross, from Oglala, S.D., and a member of the Pine Ridge Sioux Tribe has been at more than a month. She is overwhelmed by the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision, but feels the government needs to do more to protect the people and water. She isn’t leaving until the police kick her out, she said. Cross chanted, “Mni Waconi” and other water protectors all around chanted back, “Water is life!”
“The vets might have been the tipping point,” said Gray Harrison, 62, an army veteran from Fort Collins, Colo., regarding the Army Corps of Engineers decision to decline the easement. With veterans arriving by the thousands, Harrison said, “They knew the water protectors were not going to back down.”
Jim Berg, 62, and his son Mniluzahe Berg, 36, both Navy veterans, heard the call and came out to support. Mniluzahe served three tours in Iraq. “Its an amazing appalling thing to see congress and the federal government inactive for so long on issues of national importance,” Berg said.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ decision is welcome, but very late, he said, referring to the injuries caused to water protectors by Morton County Sheriff’s department from rubber bullets, concussion grenades and water canons in the interim of the decision. Berg can’t believe the reaction of law enforcement officers and the government to the right to protest.
As a Native American who has worked in “Indian country” all his life, to propose a pipeline for profit, Berg said, “That makes me furious.”
“Most Indian country doesn’t even have pipelines for water,” Berg said.