More than 30 San Diego military veterans are travelling to Standing Rock in North Dakota to help build a human shield to protect Sioux Native Americans, and protesters defending them.
The Native American veterans say they're protecting the group from law enforcement in riot gear - who have been shooting rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds and hosing protesters down in 20-degree weather.
“A woman just got her arm almost blown off by a concussion grenade,” said Gina Tiger Madueno, a Native American with the Sioux, or Lakota, Standing Rock tribe, who lives in San Diego. “They are spraying people in 20-degree weather and they need bodies there."
San Diego Navy Veteran Ivan Sam, who is Navajo, is organizing the San Diego veterans to help the Sioux stand their ground.
“The treatment that the Lakota people are receiving right now, the treatment that the water protectors are getting, the mistreatment, that’s inhumane,” Sam said.
Madueno said the issue at Standing Rock, is that the Army Corp of Engineers is building an oil pipeline through sacred Sioux land.
“They’re desecrating sacred sites and lands and those are our ancestors that are buried up there, and I don’t think that they would go a bulldoze a military cemetery," Madueno said. "But it’s the exact same thing they are doing up there."
Native Americans say the oil pipeline will hurt their water supply.
Before they leave for North Dakota, Sam is telling the volunteer vets: “There’s a chance you’re going to be arrested. There’s a chance you’re going to be shot with a rubber bullet. There’s a chance you’re going to be sprayed with tear gas."
The group plans to leave this Friday and stay around one to two weeks.
Before they go, they hope to collect enough coats, blankets and donations to sustain their efforts.
To help, you can donate to their Gofundme page.