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Shoshone-Bannock Tribes members on front lines of Dakota Access pipeline protests

The conflict over the Dakota Access pipeline is still brewing. Last Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota’s governor ordered protesters to clear out their campsite by Dec. 5. However, protesters are standing their ground. Some of our local tribes are also supporting the protests.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says construction of the pipeline will threaten the environment and damage Native American burial sites, prayer sites and significant artifacts.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In small groups, members have traveled from Fort Hall to North Dakota to bring a variety of supplies and show their support.

“We went up to stand, and you know, do some ceremonies and say prayers over the people,” member Shawna Decola said.

Many members brought supplies and took part in the protest. Some helped the medical teams on-site.

“I would help get the people off the car when they came from the front lines from the people driving them, after they’ve been shot or maced or tear gassed,” member Tess Ridley said.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes have brought protesters food and water, clothes, tepees, and wood. But with the order to leave by this coming Monday, member Jessica James-Grant said, “They are going to be charging people who bring supplies to camp and fining them. This is their tactic to get people off-camp, but native people have resisted for so long. We’ve lived under such harsh conditions throughout our history. And our ancestors went through a lot, so we can go through a lot, too. And they’re not going to stand down.”

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes members also had first-hand experience as they were on the front lines. The members told KIFI/KIDK they were in pure shock when witnessing for themselves the brutality and tactics that are being used against protestors. The members made trips to the pipeline demonstrations to help stand in protest, bring supplies, or pray. The conditions weren’t going to stop them from giving their support.

“I’m sure a lot of people have seen the videos on TV. It’s nothing like that. It was like was walking into a new world, but I was walking into a war zone,” Decola said.

“Every time you hear a blast go off, you would just automatically close your eyes and pray that the next person coming in is not hurt really bad,” Ridley said.

Some members also said they’ve never fully been afraid of being a Native American in this country until they went up to the front lines of the protests in North Dakota.

“People standing with their arms in the air and getting sprayed with water cannons,” Decola said.

“One of my cousins actually got maced and hit with rubber bullets. But they haven’t gotten hit with concussion grenades, so that’s a good thing. That’s the only thing I kind of worry about,” Shoshone-Bannock Tribes member Wyatt Red Cloud said.

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes members say the footage on TV is nothing compared to actually being there and experiencing the brutality in person. Now veterans, from different backgrounds, are saying they want to serve as the protesters’ shields when dealing with law enforcement.

“As regular civilians, we are not able to handle that. But with the military training, they’re subjective to the tear gas and they’re trained to be able to handle those combat conditions,” member Kermit Bacon said.

As many as 2,000 veterans plan to gather and stand with the Dakota pipeline protestors Sunday — just one day before the North Dakota governor’s evacuation deadline.

According to the tribes’ public affairs manager, the tribes fully support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes call for the reversal of the approval of the pipeline and for federal regulators to respect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s resources, treaty rights, members and lands. The full statement is below.

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