As has been well chronicled, the Prayer Camps in Cannonball in Hunkpapa Territories have been HUGELY successful in slowing down this well-funded Dakota Access Pipeline. We always should acknowledge that it was prophetic and powerful Native women who began this campaign out of love, prayer and concern for the water and the next generations. Thank you LaDonna. For months, in the election-obsessed United States, the mainstream media ignored and disregarded the movement.
The media cannot any longer. This movement is bigger than an election. This is about life and the future of the planet.
We’re winning, folks. It may not always feel like it, it may not always look like it. Yesterday, the federal judge temporarily halted any further work on federal lands. He also said that work can continue on private lands. That sounds about right—it acknowledged that there MAY be sacred sites off 1806 and that gives the Hunkpapa Nation additional opportunity to prove its case that there are sacred objects/burial sites. That’s winning. Every day this thing is not being built is winning.
In case you live under a rock, here’s a brief summary of what’s going on from 30,000 feet.
A company called Energy Transfer Partners wants to put a pipeline through Native territories. It’s called the Dakota Access Pipeline. The original proposed pipeline route crossed the Missouri just north of Bismarck, ND – a largely white town and the State capitol. The route was changed to cross north of Standing Rock instead because they weren’t willing to put largely white Bismarck’s drinking water at risk. Apparently it’s ok to put Native people’s water at risk though. The Standing Rock Sioux tribal government has been fighting the Energy Transfer Partners – owners of the pipeline – in court since 2014. To support their efforts in a grassroots fashion, activists (local Hunkpapa Lakota and now many others) set up the prayer camp so that those who oppose the pipeline would have a place to gather near its construction site. Organizers estimate that now, nearly 4,000 people are camping on the ground in tipis and tents.
The Army Corps of Engineers, a US agency that federal law requires to confer with affected Native Nations, failed to obey the law. They did not consult with the Hunkpapa Nation. In moving the pipeline from just north of Bismarck to just north of Standing Rock, the Energy Transfer Company proved early on they were willing to risk the drinking water of a native community, but not of a white community. Additionally, the other day these crazy people sicced attack dogs on Native people (in 2016!) to try to stop peaceful protest. That’s what led to the most recent judicial decision, yesterday.
Based upon all of that, here’s just a few thoughts that I’d like to offer about what’s going on. Hopefully it clears up a bit of the mud in the water.
1) WE’RE GOING TO WIN IF WE STAY IN THE GAME. I’m reminded of the many times I watched Native schools play white schools in state tournaments. The referees are never objective—there’s always one call, usually a hard foul by the white team, that doesn’t get called. Sometimes that non-call will cause the Native team’s fans and the Native team itself to lose the focus on the game and instead focus on the refs. That’s what’s happening here. The Pipeline, the Feds and the State (because they really want this to go through) are fouling us hard and we have to keep our cool. That’s not easy, but these referees (the State Police, National Guard, etc) are not fair and we know what to expect. But we will win if we stay in the game.
2) IF WE HAD HANDLED THE DOG ATTACKS IN ANY OTHER WAY, THE CAMPS WOULD BE SHUT DOWN. Thank you to the leaders of the camps and to the Chairman of the Standing Rock People for being so much more peaceful, prayerful and human than our opposition. Make no mistake, if they hadn’t shown the leadership and would’ve responded with similar force and ugliness, the National Guard would move in to shut these camps down. Guaranteed. We have to be better than our opposition—just better human beings. And we are. It was the same standard that was given to black folks during the civil rights era of the 60s. This is not the time to show how down, radical, or clever we can be—this is the time to be a part of a team effort, coached by the Standing Rock Nation, and be a part of its strategy.
3) THIS FIGHT IS ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS AND TREATY RIGHTS. Really, nobody has any time for any petty agendas and disputes. This affects ALL Nations because it’s about the federal government not recognizing treaty rights. Moreover, it’s about racist white people not recognizing Native people’s human rights and them being willing to pollute Native people’s water and attack Native people with dogs. Those are HUGE topics and affect every single Native person. So you should be in this fight. Every single one of you.
4) NATIVE PEOPLE ARE UNITED. That’s why you cannot let anyone lie to you and tell you otherwise. Native Nations from ALL over Turtle Island are supporting this, whether sending money, sending people, contacting local media. It’s unfair to expect unanimity from ANY ethnic group, but Native people are united in this fight.
5) Finally, PHOTO OPPS ARE COOL, BUT SEND MONEY. Here’s the thing—lawsuits cost money. Lawyers are expensive. So are honey buckets in camp. So is tribal cops. So is cleanup. I STRONGLY advise Native Nations, IF YOU ARE SPENDING tens of thousands of dollars to send a few members to Standing Rock to show solidarity, send the money to the Standing Rock Nation instead for their legal defense. Obviously it doesn’t have to be either/or, but it’s very important that we recognize the HUGE BILL that Standing Rock is racking up and help to defray the costs. This affects every single one of us.
Love you all. Keep up the good work. Our warriors are winning for us and we all have to do our part.
#566NationsStrong #StandingRock #NoDAPL #RezPectOurWater #Hunkpapa
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories