Resident leading march to protest North Dakota pipeline

October 10, 2016 GMT

A former Scottsbluff resident is organizing a march to express his solidarity with the Native American community, which is currently fighting against the construction a pipeline in North Dakota. The proposed pipeline crosses land members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe say is sacred.

Tribal members say the land contains sacred burial grounds and drinking water.

Courage Free-Spirit, formerly known as Johnny Escamilla, is organizing a march in Solidarity Monday. Free-Spirit said he sees an injustice happening in North Dakota and believes the planned pipeline, is a slight against a forgotten people.

“It’s like a new American-Indian War,” Free-Spirit said Friday.

“You can not take away a Native American’s land. You’re not going to take what little land we have left,” he said.

The march is set to begin Monday at 5 p.m.

Monday was chosen because it is Columbus Day and also Indigenous Peoples Day, Free-Spirit said.

Free-Spirit said he has spent the last month in North Dakota along with 7,000 people from all walks of life protesting the proposed pipeline. He was surprised a peaceful protest hasn’t been organized in Scottsbluff already.

Free-Spirit is organizing the march in conjunction with the Scotts Bluff County Democratic Party.

“We proudly stand behind the Native American Community,” party chairperson Stan Kontogiannis said. “We’ve done enough damage to the Native American community and we don’t need to repeat a terrible history.”

Kontogiannis said several major pipelines have been built in recent decades that cross land sacred to Native Americans.

“It’s disturbing,” Kontogiannis said.

Free-Spirit said North American indigenous people have largely been forgotten.

“(The government) doesn’t listen to the tribes. There’s no consultation, no permission — nothing,” Free-Spirit said. “It’s going through land that is ours.”

The march is planned to begin at the intersection of 27th Street and Broadway in Scottsbluff and will continue to the North Platte River. Free-Spirit said the planned route is symbolic as the North Platte River served as a territorial boundary for the Sioux tribe.