(Recasts throughout, adds quotes from tribal leader)
By Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester
CANNON BALL, N.D. Dec 3 U.S. military veterans
spoke with tribal leaders on Saturday about their shared
interest in blocking a multibillion-dollar pipeline project near
a Native American reservation, with as many as 3,500 veterans
joining protests at the site.
Veterans Stand for Standing Rock members aim to form a human
barrier in front of police to assist thousands of activists who
have spent months demonstrating against plans to route the
Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock
The group of veterans, including members already gathered
at the site, will also finish building a barracks and mess hall
near where they constructed a headquarters at the Oceti Sakowin
camp about 5 miles (8 km) north of the small town of Cannon
"Men and women who fought for our nation are now standing up
for the first occupants of this land. They're saying enough is
enough," said David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing
Rock Sioux tribe, in an interview. "It's symbolic for us."
He said the veterans intended to avoid violence as they
supported their protest over the $3.8 billion pipeline, which
opponents see a threat to water resources and sacred sites.
Violent confrontations have flared near the route of the
pipeline, with state and local law enforcement using tear gas,
rubber bullets and water hoses on the protesters, even in
Some 564 people have been arrested, the Morton County
Sheriff's Department said.
"I felt it was our duty and very personally more of a call
of duty than I ever felt in the service to come and stand in
front of the guns and the mace and the water and the threat that
they pose to these people," Anthony Murtha, 29, a Navy veteran
from Detroit, said on Friday at the Oceti Sakowin camp.
State officials on Monday ordered the thousands of
protesters now present to leave the snowy camp, which is on U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers land, citing harsh weather, but on
Wednesday they said they would not enforce the order. The
temperature in Cannon Ball is expected to fall to 4 degrees
Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius) next week.
The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline project, owned by
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, is mostly
complete, except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a
reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.
Protesters, who refer to themselves as "water protectors",
have been gearing up for the winter while they await the Army
Corps decision on whether to allow Energy Transfer to tunnel
under the river. The Army Corps has twice delayed that decision.
"Regardless of what happens with this pipeline, we now know
that with unity and with prayer we can make a stand,"
Archambault said. "I don't think the federal government or
corporate world is going to continue to encroach on our lands
after this time."
(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago, Brendan
O'Brien in Milwaukee and David Gaffen in New York; Writing by
Letitia Stein; Editing by Susan Thomas and Tom Brown)