Area veterans called to stand with Standing Rock
FARMINGTON — Preparation is underway to transport veterans from the Navajo Nation to the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.
For months, hundreds of people have joined members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to oppose construction of the 1,172-mile pipeline, which would deliver oil from North Dakota to Illinois, because they say it threatens drinking water and sacred sites.
The travel by veterans is in response to an effort by the group Veterans Stand for Standing Rock to have veterans peacefully gather and defend those at the site from Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 7. Veterans Stand for Standing Rock was started by two veterans who wanted to call attention to the response taken by law enforcement toward protesters, according to the event's GoFundMe page.
Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie said Veterans Stand for Standing Rock paid for two charter buses to deliver veterans from Shiprock to the protest site and back.
Registration for the travel started today with the goal of transporting 22 veterans from each of the five agencies on the Navajo Nation.
Yazzie said veterans who are interested must register, which can be done at the Northern Navajo Veterans Center in Shiprock, by contacting the agency commanders in the Eastern, Fort Defiance and Chinle agencies and at the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration office in Tuba City, Ariz.
Veterans must show a DD 214 and identification, as well as provide emergency contact information, he said.
Yazzie advised veterans to pack warm clothing, money for travel snacks and sleeping bags or blankets.
Accommodations have been made to have veterans stay at the Cannon Ball Community Center, he added.
If veterans have uniforms, items that signify military service or flags, they may bring those on the trip, Yazzie said.
The group is scheduled to leave the Shiprock Chapter house on Friday and return Tuesday.
Yazzie said discussion continues about having a bus pick up veterans in Window Rock, but veterans would be responsible for their transportation to and from Shiprock.
In the Northern Agency, registration took place today at the Northern Navajo Veterans Center located along south U.S. Highway 491 in Shiprock.
Shiprock Chapter member Beverly Maxwell helped register veterans and answered questions about the trip. Maxwell said six veterans signed up, and several more expressed interest in participating but wanted to talk about taking leave time with their employers.
She expressed appreciation to the veterans center for providing space, and she said questions about the travel can be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information can be obtained from the Shiprock Chapter house and from the veterans center, Maxwell said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.