- Remya Navy veteran and member of the Navajo Nation. He is a movement artist and organizer who helped organize Veterans Stand for Standing Rock.
The announcement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it would deny a permit to Energy Party Transfers to drill under the Missouri River came as thousands of Native and non-Native military veterans descended on Standing Rock, vowing to form a human shield around the water protectors, who have faced an increasingly violent police crackdown. We are joined by Remy, a Navy veteran and member of the Navajo Nation.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, a permit to drill underneath Lake Oahe on the Missouri River—officially halting construction. The announcement came as thousands of Native and non-Native military veterans descended on Standing Rock, vowing to form a human shield around the protectors, who have faced an increasingly violent police crackdown that’s injured hundreds of people and cost the state of North Dakota more than $10 million. This is Navy veteran Rob McHaney.
ROB McHANEY: I am here because I saw on television what was taking place, and I actually saw it on BBC News and not on American news, because they weren’t showing it. And they’re doing things to people there that we don’t even do in combat. And I cannot stand by, by taking an oath for this country, and see what’s happening here and not stand up for it.
AMY GOODMAN: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had originally said it would close access to the main resistance camps today, December 5th, setting up the possibility of a major showdown between the Department of the Army and thousands of veterans of the Army and other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. But instead, on Sunday, the Army announced it was denying the pipeline permit. This is Native American veteran Adan Bearcub reacting to the news.
ADAN BEARCUB: This lifted my heart. You know, we came down here from Washington state to support these brave water protectors. And we came in yesterday expecting the worst, but this is the best news that I have heard forever, the best news for Native people, Native country, the whole United States, all the people, because water is so precious.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Remy, a Navy veteran and member of the Navajo Nation, who’s been at Standing Rock for the past five-and-a-half months. He’s a movement artist and member of the Indigenous Veterans Council at Standing Rock.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Remy. Your response to the Army Corps of Engineers announcing they will not grant a permit for Energy Transfer Partners to build the Dakota Access pipeline under the Missouri?
REMY: Yá’át’ééh, Amy. I’m really kind of skeptical about the ruling. I think everyone at camp is also cautious, as well. And we’re just moving forward with continuing to really winterize. And until the project has actually ended, we will continue to move forward in the same fashion that we have been all along.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re a veteran. It was the Army that made this decision to deny the permit. Your thoughts about that?
REMY: I think it’s great that we have some sort of solidarity with the other armed forces that were here and the ones that are doing things in Washington and other places. So, it’s great that we have this type of movement generation where we were able to reach across all of the armed forces.
AMY GOODMAN: How did Veterans Standing for Standing Rock come together with—how many, would you estimate, have now descended on the resistance camps?
REMY: The project was eventually—this project was put together by Phyllis Young and Wesley Clark. Phyllis had put out a call to Wesley, and he answered. And with him came over 2,000 veterans to Standing Rock. Right now—
AMY GOODMAN: Wesley Clark, not to be confused with the general who ran for president?
REMY: Oh, yes, Wesley Clark Jr. So, right now, you have about almost 10,000 people here at camp in support of our movement to stop this pipeline.
AMY GOODMAN: This is maybe a little off topic, but can you tell us about your grandfather, what it meant to be a Navajo code talker?
REMY: Well, to clarify that, that was my grandma’s brother. So, in our culture, I call him chichei. Chichei Mike Kiyaani was a Navajo code talker. He was instrumental in winning the World War II, the code that was never broken. And so, coming here and seeing other members of other armed forces, who have gone through other battles and persevered, is something that I take with me and I’ve always had with me. He was a holy person. And his prayers, our songs and traditions remain with me and have kept me here and protected while I’ve been here in Standing Rock.
AMY GOODMAN: How long have you been there?
REMY: Been here over five-and-a-half months solid, but originally, Wiyaka Eagleman, one of the original people who answered the call from Standing Rock—he’s from the Sicangu Tribe—he actually invited us out over seven months ago.
AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to go back to something you said, when you talked about the two people who founded this Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, and you talked about Wesley Clark, and you said it’s Wesley Clark Jr. So, he is the son of the retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, who ran for president, who is—who organized the veterans to come to Standing Rock?
REMY: That’s correct. He came out, reached out about a couple weeks ago. And he wanted some on-the-ground organizing that was happening, so he reached out to me. He wanted somebody who was trusted and also a veteran. So, having been here so long, we made a connection. And through Phyllis, we’ve been able to really bring together this—this number of people. And we’re looking at probably around 3,000 veterans that have showed up and answered the call.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s fascinating that it’s Wesley Clark Jr., because Wesley Clark Sr., the retired Army general, is formerly the supreme commander of NATO’s military forces. Remy, the plans right now? Are the camps at one of the biggest points they’ve ever been, with the thousands of people there? Today was really ground zero, but now all that changes with the denial of the permit. So, are you planning to go back home? And in Arizona, what are the struggles you face there around Black Mesa?
REMY: Well, until the project has ended, we are not planning to go anywhere. This is similar to some of the struggles we encounter in Arizona. On our reservation, we’re surrounded by six coal-fired plants. And that’s not by accident; that’s by design. And so, again, we have natural resources and indigenous cultures, and the corporations that profit from it. It is because of our coal on our reservation that we made progress possible. We provide electricity in not only Arizona, but Nevada, but also somewhat of Southern California, as well. And so, again, we make progress possible, yet we don’t get to participate in it. Some of our elders don’t have running water or have electricity in some areas of our reservation. And so, that is something that brought me here to Standing Rock, because it is a different location, but it’s the same fight, because, ultimately, when you look at this, it is all indigenous land. And so, I saw this as the natural transition to come here and offer what I could in service of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
AMY GOODMAN: Tulsi Gabbard is one of those veterans who came out, the Hawaii congressmember?
REMY: Yes, she did. She answered the call, as well. So you had congresspeople who are in—really, in solidarity with us, as well. It was great to have her come on board and get involved. She was well received, and she does a lot of great work herself. So, we welcome her with open arms and fully support her and her bringing the message not only to, you know, Hawaii, but the rest of the world and her followers.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Remy, how has this changed you, the standoff at Standing Rock, which you have been a part of for many months now, going through the summer right now to the snow-covered camps?
REMY: It’s changed me quite a bit, because I see how indigenous veterans have come here in support. Prior to Wesley Clark Jr.'s call, we had many veterans that had stood up against police and have held off police, using this knowledge that they had got from the state. And these are tactics and these are techniques that we've been given, that we went in service for. And so, we’ve been able to really use that against the state itself that is oppressing us. And we’re also using that to support and further the message that this pipeline must end, and we should be able to respect indigenous sovereignty and respect indigenous bodies. And, really, you have seen a resurgence of the pride that comes with serving our country, because, again, this is our land originally. And so, when we offer enlistment, when we offer our service, it’s really an extension of what we have always been in harmony with, and that’s with the land. We do whatever it takes to protect it, because it protects us. It gives us life. And water is a part of that. And in these elements, they’re all life-giving elements. And we respect it, and we protect it. So we’ve been out here in solidarity not only with the Standing Rock people, but in solidarity with Mother Earth itself.
AMY GOODMAN: Remy, I want to thank you for being with us, Navy veteran, member of the Navajo Nation, movement artist, organizer who helped organize Veterans Stand for Standing Rock. Thousands came to North Dakota this weekend. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “False Moon” by Them Are Us Too. One of the band’s members, Cash Askew, was among the more than 33 victims of the tragic warehouse fire in Oakland, California. She was 22 years old. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.