PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Thousands of veterans from across the country are traveling to federal lands in North Dakota, where an organized resistance opposes development of an oil pipeline.
Native Americans at Standing Rock say the pipeline threatens the safety of water and ancient burial grounds.
On Thursday, a rally of tribes was held in downtown Portland in support of Standing Rock protesters.
Two veterans left from Northeast Portland on Thursday morning hoping to peacefully support tribal efforts and keep the pipeline from running through sacred Native American ground.
Sgt. Francisco Cortez finished packing and loading his sport utility vehicle with everything he’ll need for as long as it takes.
He’s one of the Portland area veterans heading to an encampment near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, answering the call of Native Americans to help resist the Dakota Access Pipeline and preserve sacred burial areas.
“Can you imagine going to visit your grandmother and seeing a tractor on it digging it up because someone wanted to put a sidewalk in or a pipeline? Where is the humanity?” said Francisco Cortez, a Native American veteran.
Francisco said they’re going as a sign of unity, not to scare anyone.
The government, he said, is once again trampling wishes of Native Americans who do not want a pipeline through their ancient lands.
He also said today’s problem for the Native Americans will be tomorrow’s problem for many others living along the Missouri River.
“This is not going to become an issue until the oil and the pollution goes downstream and starts to hit the mainstream average Joe Smith,” he said.
As Francisco departs from Portland, he said he’s leaving with a happy heart, proud to be coming to the side of his Native American brothers and sisters.