Despite the frigid weather, several local Veterans are making the trek to North Dakota this weekend in protest of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.
Jacksonville natives Tyson Manker, Patrick McKinnon and Tyler Phibbs hit the road yesterday afternoon along with thousands of veterans from throughout the US.
Manker says he and a group of veterans visited the site a couple of weeks ago to get a better idea of how they feel about the protests.
“We were so moved by the native people and what their goals and purposes were that we immediately decided we’ve got to go back. It’s really going to be a show of solidarity between those who have served and those who are trying to exercise their Constitutional rights, which ultimately this is all about. Those who have served this nation have a vested interest in upholding the Constitution,” explains Manker.
McKinnon, who served in the US Marines, says the most important thing is coming together on a united, peaceful front in support of the Standing Rock Sioux.
“The very act that we are making as a unified force from all across the country, all walks of life, people that don’t even know each other. We’re all Vets, but that doesn’t really unite us other than a common ethos. It’s the taking a stand that matters. The government is using heavy-handed tactics with very peaceful people, so we as Veterans who are experienced in those areas, we’re going to go there maybe as shepherds, if nothing more. These are Americans more than any of us are Americans. The bottom line is that this corporation has other options…the Sioux, they don’t have an option. That’s their backyard, and they don’t want it there,” says McKinnon.
Manker hopes that by joining the movement, veterans can help forge a new, more peaceful relationship with Native Americans.
“We understand the history isn’t the best, but we want to write new history in a more equitable manner. One of the many reasons that all these Veterans are coming together, coalescing around this issue, is because we want to protect all Americans,” Manker says.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion project that would move 470,000 barrels of oil per day across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The proposed route would have the pipeline run through parts of Morgan and Scott Counties near Meredosia, and terminate in Patoka, Illinois.