April 1st, 2016 was no fool’s day in North Dakota. On that day Sacred Stone Camp was established on Ladonna Brave Bull Allard’s land in Cannon Ball, North Dakota to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. When Allard found out about the pipeline she said enough is enough. This is sacred land and burial grounds for the Lakota Sioux. Allard reports, “We must remember we are part of a larger story. We are still here. We are still fighting for our lives, 153 years after my great-great-grandmother Mary watched as our people were senselessly murdered. We should not have to fight so hard to survive on our own lands.”
The message is clear: Water is life. The Missouri River is a sacred river that provides water to the people on Standing Rock reservation and to 18 million more people in cities, towns and farms along the river.
What started as a small group of a dozen Native People by the summer grew exponentially to over 3000 people from all over the country when the Army Corps of Engineers approved the water crossing permit. The first camp called Oceti Sakowin or Sacred Stone expanded to three camps and by November there were over 15,000 people at the camps. History is being made as hundreds of Native Tribes have gathered at Standing Rock in solidarity. It has been 150 years since this many tribes have met in one place.
“People are standing up. People want to tell their stories. People are so empowered,” Rose Aguilar of KALW Your Call told Kate Raphael in an interview from Standing Rock on KPFA Women’s Magazine in October. Rose extended her stay 5 days because she was so moved by what she witnessed there. She would have stayed longer but she was facilitating an election return program on November 8th, the day that has come to be known as the Great American Travesty.
The organizers of Standing Rock are fighting the pipeline on many fronts. They are holding prayer ceremonies every day. They have filed petitions, injunctions and complaints federally and locally. Social media is playing a huge part in allowing worldwide coverage and support. It is amazing to watch the live feeds from Standing Rock even on Facebook where you can see continuous comments from viewers all over the world and those stupid little hearts and like-it-hands floating by in the hundreds. The organizers have called for divestment from the banks that support DAPL. Over $18 million has been withdrawn from banks that do business with Energy Transfer Partners and other pipeline building companies.
Over the past few months there have been demonstrations held in hundreds of cities here and many other countries supporting the Water Protectors in North Dakota. Several in the Bay Area in early November targeted the banks that have invested heavily in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline. One large demo called by local labor unions started in front of Wells Fargo in Oakland and then moved into the lobby of the nearby Bank of America. More than 400 workers, queers and people of all ages and races attended.
The organizers at Standing Rock are calling DAPL the Dakota Excess Pipeline because it is not needed. If it is finished it will carry over 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Bakken oil fields. 900,000 barrels a day are transported from there already and the amount is projected to stay the same for the next 2 years. The oil fields are being depleted, so there is no reason to build more pipelines. Pipelines fail. Whether the oil leaks or spills from the pipeline or pollutes the air as gas burning from the tailpipes of cars and trucks, it is poisoning the world we live in. Oil is not a renewable resource. It is past time to wean ourselves from oil and use other non-toxic or much less toxic ways of energy. The technology exists. Use the pipelines for water, not oil.
The Water Protectors and their allies have stood strong in the face of armed police forces, attack dogs, and the national guard. They have been teargassed, shot with rubber bullets and sound grenades, arrested for praying and threatened by local, state and federal government. On December 4th, the Army Corps of Engineers denied ETP easement to drill under the Missouri River. Cheers rang out all over Standing Rock and their followers around the planet. This was an incredible victory for the Water Protectors. For now they are holding down the camp, many have left but many remain and will winter there. They know the fight against environmental racism is not over and there is still much to be done.
We can help by continuing to send money for supplies and legal defense for the more than 100 people who have been arrested. Sign petitions demanding divestment from the building of pipelines and withdraw your money if you are doing business with a bank that invests in Energy Transfer Partners. Follow the story of Standing Rock at Indian Country News and Indigenous Environmental Network.
December is a month of solidarity with Standing Rock. Join local demonstrations and check out events or make your own. There is an online calendar at http://www.nodaplarchive.com/nodapl-call-to-action.html#SolidarityActions.
Winona LaDuke, Native American activist and writer wrote: “Standing Rock is an unpredicted history lesson for all of us. More than any moment I recall since Wounded Knee, the Vietnam War, or the time of Martin Luther King, this moment stands as a crossroads in the battle for social justice. It is also an economic issue, in a time of economic system transformation, and profoundly a question of the future of this land. The world is watching.”