Another Small Step For Mankind

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A camp in Cannon Ball, N.D., where cold weather has set in. Credit Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

Protesters for a cause we could understand and side with, namely the keeping of commitments made long ago to the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the North American continent, have apparently won. Not so common, so we celebrate. And we like the twist in this story below, with unexpected allies. We did not quite believe the news when we first saw it, but now it seems certain enough to post it for posterity:

As North Dakota Pipeline Is Blocked, Veterans at Standing Rock Cheer

By

FORT YATES, N.D. — After four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, after being hit by a roadside bomb and losing two friends to explosions, Jason Brocar floated from job to job, earning enough to pay for long solo hikes where his only worries were what he would eat and where he would sleep. He was deep into a rainy trek through Scotland when he noticed friends back home talking about a place called Standing Rock.

He decided to join them, which is why he was lined up inside a huge shed this weekend with hundreds of other veterans, some of them Native Americans, who have come to North Dakota to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight to block an oil pipeline.

On Sunday, they cheered the Department of the Army’s announcement that it would seek other routes for the pipeline and would not allow a crucial section to be drilled under the Missouri River just upstream from the tribe’s reservation, where there were worries it could pollute their drinking water and cross near sacred burial sites.

But President-elect Donald J. Trump’s support for finishing the pipeline means the saga is far from over. His administration could undo the Sunday decision and order the pipeline through, though the tribe and environmental activists would almost surely sue to stop him. Reflecting the continued uncertainty, the veterans were out singing and marching on Monday in gale-force winds and driving snow.

The presence of many hundreds of veterans — organizers were anticipating 2,000 or more — adds another potent layer to a fight that is already steeped in sharp contrasts, between a tribe and an oil company, between environmentalists and pro-energy advocates, between tan-shirted sheriff’s deputies armed with rubber bullets and water cannons and protesters wearing traditional dress and feathers in their hair.

“Fall in!” came a cry one night this weekend. Hundreds of men and women packed into the building to get their orders from Brenda White Bull and Loreal Black Shawl, who are leading the veterans’ groups at the protest camps.

Read the whole article here.

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