Standing Rock: The Fight Continues

| Resist!

Above photo: Oceti Sakowin Camp on Monday, December 5, before the blizzard started. By Kevin Zeese/PopularResistance

Bismarck, ND – Monday, December 5 was the date the the US Army Corps Of Engineers’ eviction notice took effect. Tens of thousands of people converged on the Oceti Sakowin Camp over the weekend to be in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in case the eviction was acted upon. On Sunday afternoon, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that they were denying the final permit for Energy Transfer Partners to drill under Lake Oahe saying “consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.”

The news was celebrated in the camp that night as a victory, although there was a healthy distrust of the US army Corps of Engineers and a sense that the struggle was not over.That was confirmed late Sunday night when Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco XL issued a response, which stated, “…over the last four months the Administration has demonstrated by its action and inaction that it intended to delay a decision in this matter until President Obama is out of office.” and “ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”

President-elect Donald Trump, who is an investor in the DAPL project, has said he supports the pipeline being completed and promised a quick review of the Corps of Engineers decision. A spokesperson for the Trump transition team said, in response to the Corps decision, that the pipeline “is something we support construction of, and we will review the situation when we are in the White House to make the appropriate determination at that time,”

On Monday, there was a forecast of light snow and activities at the camp proceeded as usual. We attended meetings to learn more about the plans and the operations of the camp. However, late in the morning, the weather report changed to blizzard conditions. Much of the focus at that point turned to preparation for people to shelter in place or to go elsewhere. We left camp around 1 pm to drive back to our hotel outside Bismarck, a slow process because of snow, high winds, white outs and many cars, buses and trucks that went off the road. It would have been close to impossible to travel in the dark. Currently there is a “no travel advisory” in effect for much of North Dakota.

As we left camp, veterans were making their way on foot to the bridge between the camp and the construction site for a rally. Hundreds marched to the bridge and held a ceremony there in the snow and brutal wind.

There has been some disagreement in camp over what to do next. There is consensus that the fight to stop the pipeline is not over, but there won’t be any drilling in the current blizzard conditions and having a lot of people in camp is a strain on resources. Food and firewood are necessities that can be used up quickly. People who decide to join the camp need to go with the knowledge that they will need to bring supplies to be fairly self-sufficient and go with the intention of working hard to keep the camp functioning. There are many roles for volunteers.

The orientation meeting was excellent. There are many lessons that can be learned at the camp and brought back home. While the main focus of the camp is to stop the DAPL, it is about much more than that. Here are some of the points that were made:

1. Be Indigenous-centered – The whole of society in the United States is white-centered. The history that is taught in schools paints the settlers as heroes and ignores the history that the US was founded on violence, genocide and theft of land and resources, as well as slavery. The standard learning method teaches people to ask a lot of questions of others, which can be intrusive particularly in Indigenous communities without first giving an offering and asking permission. The ways that transactions are typically conducted focus on getting the most for what one gives. And the loudest voices tend to be whites, especially males. Being at the camp provides an opportunity to practice another way. Instead of thinking of oneself, campers are urged to think about the needs and desires of the local Indigenous community and to serve them. Instead of asking a lot of questions, people are urged to listen and learn. Instead of expecting something in return, people are urged to give without expectations. People are encouraged to view themselves as invited guests who respect their hosts’ ways of doing things, rather than imposing their way. This takes a lot of humility and causes discomfort for some, but there are spaces to discuss and work through these issues.

2. Build a new legacy – American Genocide continues to this day. Indigenous rights and sovereignty are abused and ignored. Indigenous communities are still exploited for resources without regard for the environmental degradation and adverse health impacts that  result and without respect for sacred sites that are desecrated and destroyed. If we do not take action to end this, then we are complicit with the ongoing system of genocide. We have an opportunity right now to change that by changing our actions. Settlers are urged to step back and support Indigenous people as they lead efforts to change the current power dynamic.

3. Bring it home – Campers are urged to bring what they have learned home. For settlers,especially whites, this means learning about one’s area in terms of who lived there first and what happened to that population. It means, connecting with local Indigenous populations and finding ways to support their work. It means raising awareness in others when they do things that reinforce colonizer power dynamics such as speaking for Indigenous people rather than making space for people to speak in their own voice or treating Indigenous people as objects rather than respecting them as humans. You can invite Indigenous spokespeople to come to your community and discuss the experience and message of the encampment.

It will take time to learn and practice ways of being that are different from what most people are taught and what surrounds us culturally in the United States. People will make mistakes along the way, but it is only through trying and being willing to make mistakes that we can change the culture in the US and end American Genocide.

Being at the Oceti Sakowin camp is an intense experience. There is a strong sense of the historic nature of what is happening. It is a great coming together of both Indigenous peoples and allies in a new way of being and doing. Indigenous speakers spoke of the people at the camp as “relatives” and treated people with respect. Their hope is for people of the nation to see each other that way so that, as a community, we can create better lives for all. The desire for healing and change was palpable and emotions ran high. It is up to all of us to make the necessary changes a reality. And our next tasks are at hand.

In addition to continuing to support the fight against the DAPL and supporting local Indigenous struggles, another great threat looms on the horizon. Reuters reported yesterday that the Trump administration intends to pursue privatization of Indigenous lands in order to have even greater power to extract oil, gas and coal. We must take action with Indigenous-led efforts to stop this privatization, to demand that the treaties are honored and to protect the planet from more extraction.

Learn more about ways to support the Oceti Sakowin camp here: OcetiSakowinCamp.org and click here to make direct donations.

Also, there are calls to continue local actions throughout December targeting the banks that are financing DAPL.  Click here for a list of the banks.