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LETTER: Visit to camp shows what pipeline fuss is about

Heading south from Mandan, N.D, on North Dakota Highway 1804 recently, I stopped at the roadblock maintained by the North Dakota National Guard to monitor the Standing Rock Sioux protests against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Heading south from Mandan, N.D, on North Dakota Highway 1804 recently, I stopped at the roadblock maintained by the North Dakota National Guard to monitor the Standing Rock Sioux protests against the Dakota Access pipeline.

The National Guardsmen were efficient and vigilant. The highway obstacles they maintained were formidable, requiring drivers to zig-zag through concrete barriers.

I complimented the Guardsman who waved me through for his professionalism, after he warned me of the Sioux encampment 25 miles down the road near the town of Cannon Ball, N.D.

I could empathize with the duty the Guardsmen were carrying out. In the late 1960s as a member of the Air National Guard, I was issued a gas mask, helmet and bayonet and trained to advance against college students during antiwar demonstrations. We would form in wedges on the airfield and stamp our feet while we thrust with our bayonets.

It was absurdly dramatic, given the general passivity of the students and the fact that they were unarmed. I wrote a memo to the commanding officer suggesting that instead of using his bullhorn to try to intimidate the students, maybe he should use student Guardsmen as negotiators. This was viewed as insubordination, which was partly true because when I wasn't serving with the Guard, I joined in the demonstrations.

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Indians confronting National Guard troops over land issues seems regressive in 2016. It should be their turn to win.

The confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri rivers where the protesters are encamped was as beautiful and peaceful when I visited as any place on Earth. The wind was blowing hard, and I commented that the organizers must have picked the windiest hill in North Dakota to pitch their camp.

One of men pointed across the road to a gash where the pipeline halted, and said the camp was in the appropriate place to take their stand.

On the other side of the encampment, the Missouri River, graced by autumn leaves, meandered directly in the pipeline's intended path. It was immediately clear why the people who call this place home are opposed to letting a half-million gallons of Bakken crude oil cross it each day.

Richard Shafer

Grand Forks

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