It’s fitting that our final day in Helena, Montana involved a march in support of clean water and demanding the Army Corps of Engineers not issue permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which is slated to cross the Missouri River (the source of our drinking water). When we first arrived in April we barely had time to unpack before heading to a march for Bernie Sanders’ bid for the presidency (oh, what could have been), so we were excited to join a hundred others in Helena to stand in solidarity with the brave water protectors on the front lines at the Sacred Stone Camp.
Today’s day of action, one of more than 200 similar events worldwide, focused on raising awareness on Helena’s busy Route 12 and rallying in front of the Army Corps of Engineers Office. It was great to see the countless waves and hear the cheers and honks from passing cars, and several people who were unfamiliar with the NODAPL movement stopped to ask why were all were gathered on a Tuesday afternoon. State Troopers even drove by and took everyone’s picture with a tablet; apparently families standing on a sidewalk are a threat and need to be fed into a terrorism database.
From there we marched to the Max Baucus Federal Building, only to learn the Army Corps of Engineers office was “closed” and there was no one to receive the message from our delegation. Department of Homeland Security officers watched from inside as we made our message of “Water is Life” and “Stop the Pipeline” loud and clear. In the end no one made it past the front desk, but we knew it was important to be there exercising our right to have a say in what happens on public land, land taken from the Lakota people (and whose “undisturbed use and occupation” of the surrounding lands is enshrined by the federal government in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty). It would take just one spill to pollute the drinking water for millions of people, so we couldn’t think of a more important place to be today fighting for the future.