The group of US military veterans who traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux protest camp to protect protesters said they plan to head to a new destination: Flint, Michigan. The veterans, who also begged for forgiveness for war crimes against the tribe, will be making Flint's water crisis their new mission.
"We don't know when we are going to be there but we will be heading to Flint," Wes Clark Jr, who helped organise the group of an estimated 4,500 veterans, told MLive.com. "This problem is all over the country. It's got to be more than veterans. People have been treated wrong in this country for a long time."
Clark and his veterans arrived at the protest camp right before the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it had denied an easement necessary to construct the final section of the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to Fusion, several veterans from Flint viewed their participating in the NoDAPL protest as part of a larger fight they have experienced back home.
"These are people who have been just as oppressed, and in some other forms more oppressed, than black folks, and to hear these people speak the name of Flint, and know that Flint is in duress too, and say that we are in their prayers — that just does a lot to me," said Flint resident and veteran George F Grundy II. "It just shows me that the human spirit is larger than any corporate entity and you can believe in your fellow person because it's worth it."
The NoDAPL protest and ongoing water crisis in Flint were discussed by Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard in a statement applauding the corps' decision. "Water is life; we cannot survive without it," the congresswoman said. "Whether it's the threat to essential water sources in this region, lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, the potential threat posed to our water by the Red Hill fuel storage facility on O'ahu, or the many other threats to our water across our nation, we must act now to protect our precious water for current and future generations to come."
While in North Dakota, a group of veterans also begged forgiveness for war crimes committed against Native Americans. Clark Jr, son of General Wesley Clark, led veterans in an emotional ceremony asking for forgiveness, USA Today reported.
"Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years," he said. "We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke."
He continued: "We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. Then we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to take your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn't respect you, we polluted your Earth, we've hurt you in so many ways but we have come to say that we are sorry."
He and the veterans behind him then knelt in front of Chief Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota spiritual leader. Putting his hand on Clark's head, the chief said: "We are Lakota Sovereign nation. We were a nation, and we're still a nation. We have a language to speak. We have preserved the caretaker position. We do not own the land. The land owns us."