The protest at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, US has mobilized hundreds of Native American tribes as well as solidarity across the world. The protests are against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a multi-billion dollar project that would transport almost half a million barrels of oil per day across the northern US. The pipeline could contaminate the Missouri River, a key water source for the region. It would also cross through a prominent Sioux burial site.
Although the US government stated last week that it would not grant the easement–the right to cross or use someone's land–under Lake Oahe for the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, the struggle is not over. The announcement cited that further examination was needed, and that an Environmental Impact Statement will be initiated. Demonstrators have said they plan to remain in the camps surrounding the northern edge of the reservation.
The Standing Rock protests started in April 2016, when members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe set up camp to block the construction. Known as “water protectors” for their commitment to protect the Missouri River from possible contamination by the pipeline’s construction, the activists have implemented peaceful tactics to fight construction.
However, in the past months their encampments have been met with an aggressive response by police, including being tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and sprayed with water in below freezing temperatures. Police also have been using various surveillance techniques in order to identify who is participating in the protests and what exactly they are doing while at the camps.
In the following video, you can hear some stories from indigenous activists in the front line:
Solidarity from around the globe
Under the #NoDAPL and #WaterIsLife battle cries, activists have pulled together solidarity across the world, from groups like the Black Lives Matter movement and Code Pink in the United States, which takes a stand against violence and racism toward African-Americans, to activists from the Middle East and indigenous peoples from New Zealand to Latin America.
An outpouring of support has grown in the last months for Standing Rock, with people organizing solidarity protests in Palestine and Morocco and dozens of other cities worldwide. United Nations observers have been dispatched to Standing Rock to monitor human rights abuses and still many others, including veterans of the US army, have visited the encampments to provide support for the water protectors.
In October, local sources reported that the Morton County Sheriff’s Department was following Facebook check-ins by protesters, in an effort to track their activities. This led over a million people to check in to Standing Rock in an attempt to obfuscate police efforts. Though the Sheriff’s Department denied they were using Facebook check-ins to monitor the protests, the response nevertheless demonstrated the widespread sense of solidarity that people around the world are expressing for the protesters.
Indigenous activists from around the world also have shown their support for Standing Rock. In October, Mayan women from Guatemala traveled to Standing Rock in an effort to build solidarity among indigenous people fighting environmental racism and in defense of land and territory. Defense of land and life against the threat of environmental destruction has a long history in Guatemala, while government repression of indigenous movements and peoples continues to date.
In the Latin American news network Telesur video below, Juanita Lopez of the Maya Mam Council addresses the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. She says:
You are lighting a path for our people. And you have tremendous responsibility and a gift in this moment for uniting so many people. Stay strong. Be strong. And you have relatives all over the world to stand with you. And even though it's for a brief moment, we will take it with us, and it will be forever in our memory and in our hearts.
Other prominent leaders of Latin American indigenous movements have visited, such as the Panamanian Cándido Mezúa Salazar, member of the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, Salazar talked about the importance of indigenous solidarity especially on issues of environmental justice in the region. “Historical relations exist between the indigenous communities of the North, Center and South, and there have been several instances of cooperation between our peoples,” said Salazar.
We have been fighting for years in order to have our ties to our lands respected and for the recognition of our rights.