On Tuesday, Andy and I brought Carter to his first protest. We were protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) being built across sacred Native lands in North Dakota. It is one of the largest movements by a united Native coalition against dangerous human rights violations and an eminent environmental threat. Though this movement has garnered international support, we have seen little to no coverage in our the mainstream media.
In a very simplified nutshell, the DAPL is a $3.8 billion dollar fracked-oil pipeline that stretches 1,172 miles from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Peoria, Illinois. It is currently slated to cross Lakota Treaty Territory at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where it is intended to be laid underneath the Missouri River. The Missouri River is the longest river on the continent and the primary source of drinking water for 8 million people. It sill also impact many sites sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous nations.
Proposed by a collection of powerful pipeline companies, the original pipeline route was planned to run north of Bismark – outside of Native lands, through predominantly White communities. It was rerouted through tribal nations when these white rejected the pipeline because it posed a threat to their drinking water. The Army Corps of Engineers failed its federal mandate to consult meaningfully with indigenous leaders before plans and construction on this new route began. This is a blatant act of environmental racism and a modern continuation of Native struggles against colonial violence, stolen land and broken treaties.
Water Protectors from indigenous nations around the world have united in a historic show of solidarity and action against DAPL. The National Guard, police officers from various states and hired guns from the pipeline company itself have attacked peaceful protesters with flash grenades, beanbag launchers, pepper spray, and Long Range Acoustic Devices. Videos of law enforcement beating Water Protectors have gone viral on social media.
Internet connectivity around Standing Rock has been shut down to prevent Protectors from broadcasting news and updates to the wider world. However, the United Nations has called for a halt to construction of the DAPL and has denounced the U.S. for the “inhuman and degrading treatment” of protectors. Amnesty International and the UN have sent delegations to investigate the human rights abuses at Standing Rock.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Army halted construction of the pipeline pending further review. Despite previous mandates from the Army Corps of Engineers, the pipeline companies have used heavily armed state authorities and private security to push ahead on construction. They have laid pipeline up to the edge of Lake Oahe, a portion of the Missouri River.
If you were fortunate to be taught history in a way that did not glorify colonizers and genocide, did not vilify Native peoples and attempted a stab at truth, you will know at least a tiny fraction of the injustices piled upon Native peoples over centuries. Maybe you never learned about the yellow fever blankets Columbus intentionally traded to Native people, never learned about atrocities colonizers committed, never learned about forced boarding schools or current conditions of poverty and sickness in native communities. But hopefully you gained some understanding that indigenous peoples were here first, their land was stolen and their people decimated.
If you were fortunate enough to have some inkling of this history, recognize that their struggles have not ended. And, frankly, their struggles are our struggles too. Indigenous peoples are not the stuff of ancient history. You can act and make a difference now.
Years from now, our children will learn about Standing Rock. They will learn about our obsession with oil and prioritization of profits over people and the planet. They will judge the injustice we allow on our watch. They will live in the environmental results of the choices we make today.
It is widely understood that if this pipeline is not stopped before the Presidency changes hands, it will not be stopped at all. Trump has extensive financial investments in the companies building the pipeline.
Time is ticking. Do your part today.
My heart is heavy, my thoughts in Standing Rock.
I am in incredible pain. My value, my humanity, my worth as an Indigenous man has been repudiated.
My brothers and sister silenced, my grandmothers abused, my land stolen, my grandfathers arrested.
What is happening in Standing Rock is an attempt to eliminate my identity, to eliminate my connection to the land, to eliminate all I hold sacred. It is an attempt to eliminate and disconnect me from the generations of ancestors who fought to ensure that I can stand tall without fear this day.
I can scarce hold back the tears from the pain, the assault on my dignity, on my children’s future, on the very things I hold dear and sacred for the sake of the “broadest public interest.” But I persevere.
Standing Rock is more than a pipeline. It is about the very dignity of Indigenous people and it is a literal fight against our elimination.
I raise my voice. I will not disappear.
Resources to learn more:
Suddenly Time – and the Oil Market – are on the Side of the Standing Rock Sioux – for all those people who aren’t doing a thing because they think it’s too late. It’s not too late.
Statement Regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline – US Army Corps of Engineers
If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, start at minute 19:05 to learn a little about forced boarding schools.
Ways you can help:
Bid for tickets to Stand with Standing Rock – DAR Constitution Hall, Washington D.C. featuring Dave Matthews Band, Neko Case, Ledisi
Standing Ground Documentary Kickstarter campaign