VA Celebrates Native American Veterans While They Protest in North Dakota

VA Celebrates Native American Veterans While They Protest in North Dakota

It's really bizarre, if you think about it. The Veterans Administration is celebrating "Native contributions in uniform" and the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) is celebrating "Native American cultures, history and traditions" this month while members of the Standing Rock Sioux and 200 other tribes are being attacked in North Dakota for protesting the building of an oil pipeline through their sacred tribal lands.

The NCA noted that Native Americans "have served in every conflict in the history of this republic with valor, honor and distinction." And, according to Dr. Herman Viola of the National Museum of the American Indian, as of 2015 almost 17,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives have served in the armed forces, making up 1.3 percent of the military population. If all groups in America had served in World War II at the same rate as Native American volunteers, he said, a draft would not have been necessary.

A number of organizations are asking people across America to join in protesting the desecration of Native American sacred lands, including those where an aquifer supplies Native Americans with clean water that could be polluted by leaking oil pipelines. It has been reported that President Obama can end the North Dakota standoff now (and the taking of sacred Indian lands) by declaring Standing Rock a national monument, forever protecting its cultural sites and halting the Dakota Access pipeline once and for all.

As one petition states it, "This may be our last chance to halt construction before Donald Trump takes office." Why is that important? According to that petition, "It is all but certain that Donald Trump's administration will allow pipeline construction to continue. During the (presidential) campaign, Trump vowed to unleash unfettered production of oil and gas and his potential energy secretary picks are extremely close to the fossil fuel industry. Making matters worse, Trump reportedly owns stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the primary developers behind the multi-billion dollar pipeline construction, and in Phillips 66, which owns a quarter share of the project."

Another petition noted that Utah's Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, along with Sen. Mike Lee, recently introduced a bill that would strip away protections for 100,000 acres of Ute tribal lands to allow for oil drilling and uranium mining. The bill would also prevent President Obama from designating 18 million acres of unprotected land at Bears Ears a national monument.

This battle is far from over. Stay tuned.

Beau Weisman, Editor