Veterans at Standing Rock offer long overdue apology to Native elders

by Toyacoyah Brown

Standing-Rock-Wes-Clark-Jr.-reping-3000-vets-begs-forgiveness-of-Leonard-Crow-Dog-Lakota-AIM-medicine-man-120716-by-Our-Revolution-300x169, Veterans at Standing Rock offer long overdue apology to Native elders, News & Views
Representing the 2,000-3,000 veterans who traveled to Standing Rock to protect the water protectors, Wes Clark Jr., son of former NATO supreme commander Gen. Wesley Clark Sr., begged forgiveness from Leonard Crow Dog, Lakota medicine man and American Indian Movement (AIM) leader, a veteran of Wounded Knee, for U.S. genocide and oppression of Native Americans. – Photo: Our Revolution

Wes Clark Jr., the son of retired U.S. Army general and former supreme commander at NATO Wesley Clark Sr., was part of a group of veterans that traveled to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the water protectors. During their visit, the Army Corps of Engineers denied a key permit for the pipeline and these veterans joined with elders in a ceremony celebrating the announcement.

During the ceremony Clark and fellow veterans got into formation by rank and knelt before the elders, asking for their forgiveness for the mistreatment of their ancestors:

“Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to make your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways, but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.”

As reported by Salon’s Charlie May, who was there: “Lakota spiritual leader and medicine man Chief Leonard Crow Dog and Standing Rock Sioux spokeswoman Phyllis Young were among several Native elders who spoke, thanking the veterans for standing in solidarity during the protests. …

“Chief Leonard Crow Dog offered forgiveness and urged for world peace: ‘We do not own the land; the land owns us.’

“Despite the positive news, there is more work to do. ‘The black snake has never stopped and if they didn’t stop at desecrating our graves of our ancestors, they’ll stop at nothing.’ Young said. ‘So there will be a motion filed by the Energy Transfer today to continue the pipeline … We are a peaceful movement, but we may have to make a move to protect our territory.’”

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Fate of North Dakota pipeline may fall to Trump

“While the decision marks a win for the months-long protest movement that stood its ground even as the freezing winter set in,” reports AFP, “it could be undone when Donald Trump moves into the White House in January if his administration chooses to grant the pipeline the final permit it needs.

“‘There are still some remaining questions,’ said Dallas Goldtooth, one of the leaders of the protest camp in the North Dakota plains, where thousands have camped to block the planned route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“‘The biggest one of all is to see what a Trump administration will do,’ Goldtooth told AFP, calling the mood among Native Americans and the environmentalists backing their campaign ‘very, very cautious.’

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is concerned about potential water pollution and says the pipeline’s route endangers areas with sacred historic artifacts.

“But President-elect Trump’s transition spokesman said Monday the incoming administration was supportive of the 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) oil pipeline, which would snake through four U.S. states.

“‘That’s something we support construction of,’ communications director Jason Miller told reporters on Monday.

“‘We’ll review the full situation when we’re in the White House and can make appropriate determinations at that time.’

“Brigham McCown, who headed pipeline safety regulation in the George W. Bush administration, said the incoming administration was likely to approve the project.

“‘Frankly, I see this as more of a temporary setback than a permanent setback for the pipeline,’ McCown told AFP.

“He said the Trump administration had several avenues to reverse course, including by ruling that current environmental assessments were sufficient.

Standing-Rock-vets-march-hold-flag-against-strong-winds-120516-by-AAP-300x169, Veterans at Standing Rock offer long overdue apology to Native elders, News & Views
Veterans huddle together to hold a flag against strong winds during a march near Standing Rock on Dec. 5. – Photo: AAP

Trump meetings

“The Republican billionaire, who reportedly owns a stake in the pipeline’s operator Energy Transfer Partners, planned to meet Monday with North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer.

“Cramer was critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to deny the final permit necessary to complete the project, saying it sent ‘a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country.’

“Trump’s transition team has also met with North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, another pipeline supporter.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an engineering and construction management agency that is in charge of federal waterways, decided Sunday against granting a permit to bury the pipeline under the Missouri River, the source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux.

“‘The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,’ Jo-Ellen Darcy, the U.S. Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement.

“Energy Transfer Partners criticized Barack Obama’s administration, calling the Army’s decision ‘purely political.’

“‘Over the last four months the administration has demonstrated by its action and inaction that it intended to delay a decision in this matter until President Obama is out of office,’ the company said in a statement.

Fight ‘far from over’

Standing-Rock-vets-march-to-closed-bridge-blocking-Oceti-Sakowin-camp-120516-by-AAP-300x169, Veterans at Standing Rock offer long overdue apology to Native elders, News & Views
The thousands of military veterans who have joined the water protectors at Standing Rock march to a closed bridge outside the Oceti Sakowin camp, where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline. – Photo: AAP

“Standing Rock Sioux chairman Dave Archambault insisted that the tribe was not opposed to the pipeline, just its route, saying he hoped the incoming Trump administration and other elected officials “respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point.”

“‘We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples,’ he said in a statement.

“The conflict between the tribe and pipeline operators Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners has galvanized North American native tribes and supporters, who have camped in the thousands near the construction site, some since April, in an effort to block it.

“The standoff has prompted violent clashes with law enforcement, as well as sympathetic protests nationwide.

“Some 2,000 US military veterans joined the protest over the weekend in a symbolically important move before a deadline for demonstrators to vacate the area on Monday.

“On Monday morning, the mood at the protest camp was muted after a prior day of celebration.

“‘Everybody is well aware that the fight is far from over. But it’s a tremendous moment for this campaign,’ Goldtooth said.

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Permit might be denied, but veterans sticking around to help at Standing Rock

Everyone was celebrating when the Army Corps of Engineers made the announcement that a permit for the construction of a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline was denied. But there’s still work to be done at Standing Rock and veterans are helping pitch in around the camps.

A lot of these veterans had been disturbed by images they had seen online and in news stories of how the water protectors were being treated and felt a calling to come help those on the frontlines.

SBS World News interviewed some of those veterans:

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