Defending the Constitution at Standing Rock

Veteran reflects on his time at Oceti Sakowin Camp in defense of native people and the environment

The author, a Chico resident, is a veteran and an avid activist and environmentalist.

I recently returned from the Oceti Sakowin Camp at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, I was moved to stand in solidarity with the Sioux and thousands of veterans in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline project. There are so many reasons: protecting clean water for future generations; protecting land, sacred sites and legal treaties; and ending corporate control over government, resources, land, the legal system, etc.

The Sioux of Standing Rock have been forced to live in a harsh environment. Treaties have constantly been violated, land taken, sacred sites desecrated. The one main resource that remains to sustain life on the reservation, the water supply, is threatened by the pipeline project.

I was honored to be with vets from all branches of the service, all around the country, and across the political/social spectrum. Many felt a deep sense of purpose they lost after leaving military service. Many felt it was a way to fulfill their oath to defend the Constitution.

There was a spiritual energy at the camp like a protective blanket. There was a community spirit, solidarity on a scale I have never experienced. My brief time there changed me. The veteran deployment was overwhelming—thousands more than expected came, bringing with them a strong will to protect the people from abuses. All of the vets I talked to believe that showing up helped sway the Army Corp of Engineers to deny the permit for easement under the river.

A powerful event that took place at Oceti Sakowin Camp was the forgiveness ceremony and acceptance of the apology given to the Sioux by the leaders of the veterans movement. What more powerful way to ask forgiveness than starting a working relationship?

We have a responsibility and opportunity every day to change our damaging behavior and to help future generations honor and protect Mother Earth. That’s the only way to be able to look a child in the eyes and say that you are working to pass on a beautiful and bountiful planet to call home.