Standing Rock: The largest indigenous mobilization in more than a century

Standing Rock: The largest indigenous mobilization in more than a century

By Silvia Arana

In violation of treaties and against the will of the Sioux, the oil corporation Energy Transfer Partners is building a pipeline that would destroy the Standing Rock Indian sacred site and cemetery and whose underground section would pass under the bed of the Missouri River. The project is a $ 3.8 billion investment, funded by Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Wells Fargo and other large banks. It has an extension of 1880 km, going from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, through South Dakota, Iowa until reaching Illinois.

Since spring 2016, thousands of people, many from various indigenous nations, have gathered at Standing Rock to protest the construction of the pipeline that would destroy sacred sites and contaminate the water. They call themselves "protectors of water."

There are an estimated 300 oil spills per year in the country's pipelines [1], and therefore water advocates do not believe in the promises of the company, the Army Corps of Engineers and the authorities that " this pipeline is safe. "

The largest indigenous mobilization in over a hundred years

“Standing Rock is the largest indigenous congregation that has occurred in the course of my life; day by day new flags of the different tribes were added ... From the sixth week on, it stopped being a camp to become a community ... We took a stand against the pipeline, we did not know that we would have this immense support ... This land is a sacred site of the Lakota people; furthermore, the pipeline will pollute the Missouri River water… The Army Corps of Engineers did not properly consult with the tribes. The Dakota Access Pipeline has underground sections in the bed of the Missouri River. The pipelines have a history of spills, they have contaminated the soil, the air, and the underground water ... If it is built it will destroy not only the river in this area, but also downstream. The tribes assume their responsibility as protectors. You have to take care of the land, the water, the air… One day on our daily walk to the sacred site, the grandmothers and mothers told the excavators that they were not going to allow them to destroy a sacred site. In response, the private security guards threw the dogs at the people. Several protectors of the water went to the hospital for the wounds… After the dogs, they will bring the weapons… ".

This was said last October by Dennis Banks (79 years old), a historic indigenous leader and co-founder of the American Indian Movement. [2]

As predicted by Dennis Banks, the repression against the community of water protectors grew in the following weeks until reaching its peak on Sunday, November 20. In freezing temperatures of 5 degrees below zero, the police repressed the protesters by throwing jets of water and causing hundreds of cases of hypothermia. They also used tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, injuring about 300 protesters. The most serious case was that of Sophia Wilansky (21 years old) who was wounded by a grenade that hit her in the arm and destroyed her bone and tissues. He is currently preparing for the third surgery, and will have to endure additional ones in the effort to save his arm that was practically separated from his body by the grenade. This young woman from New York, who like many other people came to Standing Rock to show solidarity with native peoples, was a victim of abuse of force when she exercised the right to protest, guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution. A right that is being systematically violated by the Morton (North Dakota) police and the National Guard.

Linda Black Elk, a member of the Standing Rock medical corps, who witnessed the repression last Sunday, said: "The police have increased the level of violence against water protectors. I have seen the different weapons used against us: tear gas , rubber bullets, grenades. It seems that they are testing their weapons against us in a growing militarization of repression. " He added: "We were very disappointed in President Obama. He was here, he made promises and he didn't keep any of them."

This governmental conduct against the rights of native peoples is not surprising, but rather consistent with the historical conduct of the US government, which has committed and / or permitted abuses on indigenous lands since the beginning of colonization. Examples of abuses against the Lakota and Dakota peoples are the seizure of land in the Black Hills of South Dakota after the discovery of gold in the 1870s, and the construction of reservoirs on the Missouri River that caused flooding in villages, forested areas, and on farms in North and South Dakota during the 1950s.

Mni Wiconi: Water is life

Alternative media such as Unicorn Riot and Indigenous Rising Media broadcast live from Standing Rock on Thursday, November 24. It is the day that the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. According to official history, the indigenous people saved the pilgrims from death by offering them food (a version branded false by historians such as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who says that the Indians never welcomed their oppressors with open arms).

As an ironic reminder of the date, the water protectors set up tables with food. A few meters from them, several dozen policemen were blocking the route, from one side and the other, as a fence. There are posters with the phrase: “Don’t Feed the Pilgrims”. The slogan of the day is: “No pilgrims, no pipelines, no prisons, no problems”.

A light snow falls on the desert prairie, people in their thick coats, their heads covered with hats or hoods keep moving, some begin to sing the powerful traditional Lakota chants, and the cry "Mni Wiconi" (The water is lifetime!)

Another day in the long battle for Standing Rock, the largest congregation of indigenous peoples in more than a century, ended since the Battle of the Little Bighorn - or Greasy Grass - in 1876. It was a great victory for the alliance of tribes of the prairies - Lakotas, Cheyennes and Arapahos - that defeated the Seventh Regiment under the command of General Custer. A vision from the Lakota chief Sitting Bull is said to have inspired the warriors; a dream in which US Army soldiers fell from the sky. It was the last victory for the Prairie Indians. Today the Standing Rock community is the protagonist of a historic mobilization that, due to its ability to convene, diversity, continuity and fighting spirit is shaping a new and great victory.

Note: The US Army Corps of Engineers sent an eviction order - to be carried out on December 5 - to the authorities of the Sioux Reservation. Sioux chief Dave Archambault, as well as other community representatives, responded that they will not move.

[1] More Than 300 A Year… Common Dreams:

[2] Interview conducted by Abby Martin, Empire Files, TeleSur. Translated from English by Silvia Arana:


Video: David N. Pellow: Critical Environmental Justice (May 2021).