On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil underneath a section of the Missouri River in North Dakota.
For months, this has been the site of protests, led by members of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In the days leading up to the decision, military veterans joined the protest, including several from Idaho.
Last weekend a small group of Idaho Veterans loaded into a van and began the thousand-mile drive to the Dakota Access Pipeline. As part of a larger group called Veterans for Standing Rock, these Idaho Vets came not just to protest, but to donate supplies.
Steve Davis, a 66-year-old Army Veteran from Idaho Falls, decided to bring 250 pounds of Idaho potatoes. His decision to join those protesting centered around the importance of the river waters to the Sioux.
“They’re trying to put a pipeline underneath the Missouri River and if it broke, it could contaminate water for hundreds of thousands of people,” says Davis.
In denying the easement, the Army Corps says it needs greater public input for its Environmental Impact Statement. The demonstrations, which have drawn interest from around the country, have been marked by violent clashes with law enforcement – and lately, heavy winter weather.
But blizzard conditions over the weekend didn’t prevent the Idaho Veterans from marching side-by-side with native groups.
After several hours in harsh weather conditions, the march ended peacefully, with no violence. The next day Veteran groups celebrated when the pipeline operators were denied an easement for the river crossing.
But some among the Idaho contingent aren’t so sure that this will stop the construction for good.
Rebecca Nowlan served in the Army from 2004 to 2009. She doesn’t think the fight is over because there is still a lot more work to be done.
Nowlan’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline has a broader goal. These fuel infrastructure projects, she says, keep the U.S. dependent on oil for its energy, which she believes weakens our nation.
“For our own national security, we need to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energies,” Nowlan says.
Following this trip, these Idaho Veterans for Standing Rock plan to regroup on similar issues in the future.
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