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An outgrowth of pipeline protests, first-ever Indigenous Peoples March set for Friday on National Mall

Protesters opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline are shown here at an encampment north of Cannon Ball, N.D. The 2016-2017 protests were part of the impetus for the Indigenous Peoples March set for Friday, Jan. 18, in Washington, D.C. Forum file photo1 / 3
Chase Iron Eyes2 / 3
Tara Houska3 / 3

FARGO — A historic demonstration stemming from oil pipeline protests in North Dakota and Minnesota is descending on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Jan. 18.

The first-ever Indigenous Peoples March is estimated to draw a crowd of 10,000 to the nation's capital during a weekend when other large-scale marches are taking place. The March for Life, a longstanding anti-abortion rally, also takes place that Friday, followed by the Women's March on Saturday.

Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People's Law Project, said the impetus of the Indigenous Peoples March grew from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 2016 and 2017. Solidarity has been building despite the government supporting that oil pipeline and others, like Enbridge Line 3 running from Alberta through northern Minnesota and into Wisconsin, he said.

"We don't want these tar sands going through our waters," said Tara Houska, an organizer of the Indigenous Peoples March and a member of the Women's March steering committee. "That's the message I'm carrying to D.C."

Environmental concerns are one of many platforms protesters plan to highlight.

Iron Eyes said injustices facing indigenous people impact other populations and future generations. Police brutality, sex trafficking, racial discrimination, immigrant rights, gun violence and the longest government shutdown in U.S. history can pull people out of silos and show that "we have a common struggle," he said.

This is why the march is inviting everyone, not only American Indians, Iron Eyes said. "It's clear that Washington doesn't have our best interest in mind, and I'm speaking as an American, not just as an indigenous person. We are in complete trouble," he said.

Houska, director of Honor The Earth, a nonprofit group on the White Earth Indian Reservation, said there are clear requests on several issues facing native people. These include ending attacks on the Indian Child Welfare Act, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, fully funding appropriations to Indian Health Services and passing Savanna's Act, which aims to gather data on missing and murdered indigenous people and is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a slain Fargo woman whose baby was cut from her womb.

"It's historic, and it's long overdue that we have these conversations nationally," Houska said. "We still don't see native people on television really anywhere except continuing to be in Western movies and as mascots. I'm very excited to see this step forward."

Taking part in the march are tribal nations and organizations from across the U.S., with indigenous people from Canada, Australia and Guatemala expected to attend. Iron Eyes is travelling from South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and Houska is heading out with a Line 3 opposition group from Duluth, Minn.

Solidarity marches are being held in other cities. The official website for the demonstration showed the closest march is being held at Bemidji State University.