I left my heart at Standing Rock: A story of resistance and struggle

standing rock

Native American folks are a ceremonial people of song and prophecy. One prophecy, that of the 7th fire, predicts that protectors from the four sacred directions will rise to defeat a sinister black snake that burrows deep in the earth and ravages the lands. The protectors are led by the 7th generation, today’s young people, and guided by the wisdom of the elders.  

For centuries, indigenous people have been plagued by demons imposed upon them by the wasichu government. Native children taken from their families and placed into strict boarding schools, the illegality of prayer in the first half of the 20th century, and the tragedy of discriminatory police slayings and the highest suicide rates in the world represent just some of the injustices they have endured.

Indigenous people have been systematically stripped of their land, pushed onto reservations where poverty and drug abuse ran rampant, and been made to witness the plunder of Earth’s natural resources from their homes, the front lines of the climate movement.

This summer I had the privilege of spending time at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota where thousands of Native Americans and their allies are currently resisting a $3.7 billion crude oil pipeline project known as the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The struggle garnered national attention when a group of indigenous youth ran from Standing Rock to Washington DC – around 70 miles a day for three weeks.

The 1,172 mile long pipeline is expected to transport around 500,000 barrels per day and, if completed, will burrow under countless water sources including the Missouri River, threatening water for 18 million Americans. Because DAPL never consulted with the tribal nations whose lands will play host to what natives have labeled “the black snake,” DAPL violates the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The resistance of the water protectors at Standing Rock is justified then, not only through international law, but also through supreme law and agreements such as the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty which promised these lands to the first nation’s people.

While at the camp, I interviewed a young medic from the Red Warrior Camp named Alas.

“People think we are fighting for the right to clean water, but really it is the Native American people’s responsibility to ensure that we have clean water. All our non-human relations have water. That responsibility puts us at odds with the colonial government that is strong arming around here. It’s not up to us that we have reached peak oil, you know? Greenhouse gases and ozone layers, all this shit, water levels are rising. That’s not happening because we say it is, it’s happening because that’s what this machine is creating. This [#noDAPL movement] is a continuation of the indigenous resistance and indigenous protection that has been happening here since the beginning of time”

Early September, DAPL bulldozed over three sacred indigenous burial sites and hired private security, which confronted unarmed prayerful protectors at construction sites with pepper spray and vicious dogs!

Since then, dozens of water protectors have been arrested and fully armed state and local forces have been deployed on more than one occasion. Though big media remains largely silent, social media has allowed the story to find audiences around the world, where many are making the connection between the battle for water in Standing Rock and the global struggle against capitalism, fossil fuels, and American imperialism. Indeed, letters pour into camp everyday from organizations commending the encampment and pledging their solidarity with the largest gathering of tribal nations in history.

As of November 29th, the Army Corps of Engineers has called for the water protectors to evacuate the encampment by Dec 5th, though they made no mention of forced removal. Additionally, the state of North Dakota has issued an emergency evacuation order citing concerns for “public safety” considering the harsh winter conditions and has announced that state law enforcement will begin to block emergency services and supplies from reaching the water protectors.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Davis Archambault II denounced the order as yet another scare tactic and questioned Governor Dalrymple’s authority on so called Army Corps land.

The Lakota people have been living on these lands for many generations and will continue to do so despite the opposition from local law enforcement, the federal government, or sub-zero temperatures. Us here back home, then, must bolster their efforts in whichever way we deem most possible and effective because the battle currently unfolding at Standing Rock is being waged on behalf of myself, yourself, and our children yet unborn.