Mni Wiconi: A Look at #NoDAPL

I promised myself that I wouldn’t be silenced again, so I’m beginning to share here what I’ve been sharing on Facebook and across my other social media platforms, especially that which is igniting another fire within me: the DAPL protests.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is being constructed on sacred land in North Dakota that was given to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as part of an 1851 treaty. Originally meant to be built near Bismarck and travel through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois carrying upwards of 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day, the plans were changed when residents protested in fear that a pipeline break might contaminate their municipal water. The pipeline was moved west, crossing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lands — lands which contain areas of cultural Native American significance, including places of prayer and burial grounds, which have since been bulldozed in pipeline construction.

Pipelines breaking is nothing new. A pipeline broke in Alabama early this month, killing one person and injuring half a dozen others, and nearby in my own home state of Pennsylvania, 55,000 gallons of gasoline poured into the Susquehanna River after a storm ruptured the line, contaminating water supplies. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fears are not only fully founded, but the event of a pipeline breaking is only a matter time.
 
 The Dakota Access Pipeline is planned to cross beneath the Missouri River, threatening drinking water, farmland, and the eco-system at-large. This doesn’t just affect the tribes. This affect’s everyone’s rights to clean water, which is necessary to life.

Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the pipeline, is using all of their resources and investments from banks such as Wells Fargo, CitiBank, and Bank of America to push the pipeline forward. The government, in turn, has largely ignored requests to halt the pipeline, presumably in favor of corporate interests. Our democracy was created as a government for the people, not for corporations. When people protest and say no, especially with regards to sacred land, the corporations — and by proxy, the government — must listen.

But Energy Transfer Partners isn’t listening. Not only that, they are blatantly disregarding governmental orders to halt construction of the pipeline until the conflict can be resolved. These protests are not new. In fact, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been fighting the pipeline for two years. In 2014, the tribe attempted to go through the judicial system to prevent the pipeline from being built on their land, but plans for construction moved forward. In April, the Sacred Stone camp was created as a base for protests. The protests have gotten bigger ever since, as DAPL began constructing without proper permits and with disregard to the sacred sites of the Native American tribes.

Natives and non-natives alike are coming together in peaceful, prayerful protest. There are no weapons or threats of violence — only brave voices speaking up in prayer and song. These protests invoke the rights upon which our country was founded; however, law enforcement in opposition to the protests have become more militarize and increasingly violent.

Mass arrests have been made without cause. Police have written numbers on the arms of arrestees before holding them in dog kennels in events that are horrifically similar to those during WWII. In October, tribal security apprehended a DAPL worker brandishing an AR-15 looking to incite violence and cause riots. One weekend night, DAPL workers set fire to grassland near the Oceti Sakowin camp.

These instances aren’t mere speculation. There is video evidence thanks to the courageous water protectors who have been live-streaming the protests on Facebook Live and other social media from the beginning. These videos continuously show unprovoked militarized police in full riot gear becoming increasingly violent against unarmed men, women, children, and elderly who protest in song and prayer.

In mid-November, water protectors on Highway 1806 attempted to remove a blockade of burned out vehicles to open up the highway so rescue services could get through. The blockade was originally agreed upon by police, and in a negotiating meeting, it was conceded that it could be removed. However, these water protectors were met with resistance followed by violence.

Hundreds of water protectors were fired upon with rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, and water cannons in freezing temperatures in an attack that lasted until well after midnight. Many at the frontlines had no escape, as they were blocked in by the bridge — their choice was to endure the tear gas and water cannons or risk trampling others.

I watched in horror as this occurred through live video feeds, hearing shouts and calls for medics. I can’t imagine the horror those there must have felt on the front lines or even watching. But still they remained resolute and brave, three-hundred water protectors cycling through to the front lines in solidarity. The mass media has barely covered this atrocity, and what they did print, they got wrong. One only needs to watch the video evidence to know what’s truly happening. The videos are there — the world is watching anyway.

DAPL protestors — our water protectors — are standing up for all of us. They preach prayer, not violence, and the video feeds have become vital in proving that the violence is coming from the opposition — those hired by the oil companies, including law enforcement, to prevent the halt of construction, even as that construction has destroyed sacred land, including bulldozing a tribal graveyard. There is no respect for the Native American land. And if they refuse to hear their voices — when it’s on their land — then they certainly won’t listen to anyone else’s.

But we’re all making our voices heard anyway. Because we cannot stand for this. This is not just the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s issue. This is not just a Native American issue. This is not just North Dakota’s issue.

This is our issue — as American brothers and sisters. This is what is happening in our country right now, and if we were to allow it, it would set a dangerous precedent for corporations that already yield too much power. This is why I’m doing what I can and speaking up and sharing. This is why we must stand together. For our future, and for future generations.

Update:
 
North Dakota has issued an executive order for the eviction of protestors from the Oceti Sakowin camp by December 5, claiming their concern for the safety of protestors with regards to the harsh winter climate. This statement was later redacted and clarified by the Army Corps of Engineers, who stated that there were no plans for a forcible removal, but that those who remained at the camp would be ticketed and denied medical services. What their intentions are and how they will follow through remains to be seen. More detailed information can be found here.

Two thousand army veterans have since made the journey to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the water protectors, serving as a line of defense between the militarized police and those who protest in peaceful prayer. Those of us standing with Standing Rock remain grateful to these veterans who continue to defend our freedoms.
 
Who to follow:
 
Below is a list of water protectors at Standing Rock whose live videos are a terrific source of reliable information. Click on the name to view their Facebook profiles and follow their feeds.

Myron Dewey
Kevin Gilbertt
Dallas Goldtooth
Atsa E’sha Hoferer
Indigenous Rising Media
Shailene Woodley
 
What can you do?

- Social Media. The media has yet to fully cover the #noDAPL protests and, when they do, they skew the information in favor of erroneous statements put forth by North Dakota law enforcement. The live feeds show exactly what’s going on during the protests, with many of the above-listed water protectors providing hourly updates to refute rumors and give accurate depictions of what’s happening on the front lines and at the camps. Awareness is vital. The more people who know what’s happening and why, the more voices can sing out in protest. Watch and share the videos and accurate information to help spread the word.
 
 — Donate. With the cold winter looming, water protectors are in need of supplies. Many water protectors have set up Amazon wishlists for things that are needed. Refer to the individual camp sites (for example, Oceti Sakowin Camp) for more information on what supplies are needed and how to donate.
 
 Monetary donations can also be made directly to the camps via GoFundMe and PayPal; these donations are put towards supplies or legal funds. Please make sure you fully vet GoFundMe donation campaigns before donating, particularly to individuals. Red Warrior Camp and Sacred Stone Camp are two GoFundMe campaigns that benefit the camps as a whole. Want to donate directly to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe? You can do so here: Donate.
 
 — Call your representatives. The government works for the people, and what better way to ensure that right of democracy than making your voice heard to the people who can politically create change. Voice your opposition to the pipeline by calling your representative. Contact the Department of Justice, the US Army Corps of Engineers, North Dakota Congressional Delegation, or your own state’s representatives and let them know you stand with Standing Rock and oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline and the atrocities being witnessed against peaceful protestors. For a full list of names and numbers, check out this resource from Yes Magazine.