Lamb of God's Randy Blythe 'cautiously optimistic' on Standing Rock developments

Updated: Dec. 5, 2016 at 4:45 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Less than two weeks after Randy Blythe visited Standing Rock to stand side-by-side with the Sioux tribe and thousands of their supporters, he's "cautiously optimistic" about the Army Corps of Engineers halting work on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The decision by the corps on Sunday to deny an easement that the Sioux natives worried would threaten their water supply may open the door to a larger Environmental Impact study and possible exploration of alternative routes, giving many supporters a reason to celebrate. However, the lead singer of Richmond-based heavy metal band Lamb of God believes the battle is far from over.

Blythe went to the reservation over Thanksgiving, driven largely by his interest in environmental issues and a sort of kinship he feels with Native Americans through friendships with several indigenous people.

"There's so many different conflicting stories. I wanted to find out for myself," explained Blythe.

Packing 10 lbs. of Lamplighter coffee, heavy clothes, and his camera, Blythe says he went with an open mind and a healthy dose of caution.

"When you go somewhere where there are heavy militarized police and there is a conflict going on there's always a twinge of fear," he recalled. "I didn't witness any plans to make some sort of insane, violent movement... In fact, I heard several times, 'Do not agitate the police.'"

Blythe described the protests as an "act of civil disobedience," and likens it to the Civil Rights movement. He found the people very connected to the Earth and to one another.

"You didn't see trash anywhere. Everybody was volunteering to pick up. Everybody was self-policing, everybody was helpful," he explained. "You're not there to party, you're not there for a holiday. It's not Burning Man or whatever. You are there to help out and be a helpful presence. That's why we went."

He left impressed by the Sioux and their supporters and hopes the recent ruling will continue the momentum of grassroots efforts to fight for environmental change nationwide, with Native Americans as the center of the struggle. Still, he's concerned that the incoming Trump administration may be more likely to continue with the current plans for the interstate oil pipeline and feels a greater movement toward alternative energy and environmentalism is needed.

"I'm hoping, I'm hoping, I'm hoping it remains peaceful. I think that's the only way it works."

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