One of them is a state lawmaker, who’s introduced what’s described as the first state-level resolution calling for pipeline construction. Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, has family ties to the Sioux Nation. But she’s hoping the message -- of pushing back against a heavy-handed federal government -- will resonate in a state Capitol filled with conservatives.
“When we talk about religious liberties,” she asks, “when we talk about public land, whose voice is more important?”
At a coffee shop nearby in Salt Lake City, more than a dozen supporters are planning a weekend caravan that would bypass roadblocks to the Standing Rock protest camps.
Carol Surveyor is prepared to brave cold and escalating tension to join the resistance. She’s helping to lead it.
“Something that will cover your mouth and nose so you don’t inhale --cuz I don’t know if you guys have ever been maced or been near mace. That stuff is painful.”
Surveyor’s a member of the Navajo tribe’s “Born For The Water Clan,” and her father comes from Utah’s Monument Valley, where uranium mining decades ago contaminated drinking water. So this is a fight she’s ready for.
“This is not just a Native issue,” she says. “This is – it stands for human rights, civil rights, environmental racism.”
Moroni Benally, who’s also organizing the caravan, says the fight at Standing Rock is not only about the Sioux but all 566 federally recognized tribes.
“We don't see this as allies,” he says. “We see this as it is happening to us. I mean there are times that I've wept watching this unfold and seeing the erasure of my people online – sorry -- and it hurts.”
Benally told the caravan planners history is being made.
“What’s happening now, and especially on the 5th is incredibly – will be a watershed moment in American history,” he tells the group. “And it’s fantastic.”