On December 5th, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced temporarily halting construction of an oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation for an environmental review, Army veteran Wilbur Hilton, along with thousands of other protesters, celebrated with victory dances and drum circles that lasted into the night,
Hilton is among thousands of veterans who traveled to North Dakota to stand alongside opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The protesters camped for months on the banks of the Missouri River, enduring harsh weather conditions.
The celebrations didn’t last:
President Trump signed an executive order or January 24th to continue the construction of the remaining part of the pipeline that passes under the Missouri River near the reservation.
Veterans, who were present at Standing Rock in December, are taking what protest leaders are calling a “last stand”.
Veterans Stand is the group that was born out of the veterans’ participation in the Standing Rock protests. It has vowed to assist the demonstrations that have renewed as a response to the executive order. Marine veteran Anthony Diggs, the group’s spokesman, said that they have raised about $181,000, which will be used for supplies, as well as travel expenses for veterans returning to the protest camps. A small group of veterans have traveled to the site where they have been tasked with building new shelters, among other tasks, by the protests leaders.
Other veterans who traveled to North Dakota in December, including Hilton, are preparing to return to protest.
Diggs stated that the veterans will remain nonviolent.
Water is Life:
Hilton is a native of Flint, Michigan where a drinking water crisis is ongoing. He feels failed by poor governance, he explained that the water crisis in his hometown was part of his motivation to travel thousands of miles to stand with the Native American tribes defending their water supply.
An Important Pipeline:
The pipeline is a multibillion project, spanning 1,172 miles and if complete, it will would route approximately 450,000 barrels of crude oil each day through North Dakota to pipeline networks in Illinois. Opponents of the pipeline are protesting the last 1,100 feet that would stretch under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River about a half-mile from the Standing Rock reservation. If ruptured, the oil would contaminate drinking water. However, Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s owners has insisted that the pipeline is safe.