In November, some of our Spokane members traveled to Dakota to support the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition. They left Spokane with supplies to help this protest make it through the winter months and came back with a memorable experience and some amazing photos.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline because it threatens sacred native lands and could contaminate their water supply from the Missouri river, which is the longest river in North America.
Former President Obama did his best to put into place legal red tape to stop the project, declaring the project would contribute to climate change because it would carry tar sands crude which is especially greenhouse gas intensive because of the energy it takes to extract the thick crude.
Now, President Trump has filed an Executive Order to advance the pipeline project.
The fight to stop the pipeline continues. #NoDAPL
Below is a first person account of the experience from Spokane leader Bonnie Roberts:
I wanted to thank Washington CAN for the support to make a trip to Standing Rock, North Dakota. I had read an explanation of the treaty rights of Standing Rock online. It wasn’t until I went there that I was able to put it into context. I learned that the path of the pipeline had originally been plotted to pass through a mostly white, middle class and working class neighborhood – one with recognized political clout. So, the pipeline was rerouted through tribal lands.
I was unexpectedly overcome when we arrived. The sacredness of the place was overwhelming. The next morning, we left camp and went to a state park to shower. There, I met a young lady, probably in her twenties, who taught us about her people and the importance of numbers and colors in teaching of lessons. She shared with me about the White Buffalo Princess and her ties to Standing Rock. I was moved because the young have a lot to teach us, and it did my heart good to know our youth are so impassioned, knowing they will be there to pass the baton to.
The next day, we went on an action and were confronted by Gestapo forces on a public highway. As a person of Jewish descent, I hated that they had numbered the forearms of water protectors they had arrested. There I stood with a big Star of David on the back of my coat. I have lost several family members to the Holocaust. For many generations, Jews of Europe had been forced off their land and sent “beyond the pale” (uncharted territory) in Eastern Europe. Was it perhaps a forerunner of the reservation system? It was brought about by the forces of Imperialism and Colonialism.
I believe with all my heart that a slow-moving holocaust has been perpetrated against indigenous peoples throughout the world. I was brought up that if you see it, name it, and call it out. How could the fair-minded citizens of Germany, Poland, and elsewhere have turned a blind eye? How could they have allowed the Nazis to take over?
I felt I was prepared for anything. I was trained in the sixties by SNCC. I had been in student protests in Philadelphia where we were all fire-hosed, and in those days, we were gassed. Pepper spray wasn’t as prevalent. We were trained based on Gandhi’s teachings and we practiced going limp if arrested. Oh, by the way, no earrings, they’ll rip them out! Now, at our camp in North Dakota, we got additional training before the group action. Everyone going to the action was well-trained.
Now I have a chance to make the personal decision to stand up for what I believe. I was face-to-face with law enforcement and wondered why they chose to not enforce treaty laws. Can they pick and choose what laws to enforce? The commander stated it was a riot, but it wasn’t – it was a peaceful demonstration. The commander sought cover for his own actions, because there was a sense that they were itching for it to get out of hand. I became acutely aware that I may have to lay my body down for what I believe. Thankfully, no one got sprayed that day – at least, not where we were.
I sat by the fire that night processing everything that had happened. I was contemplating how deep the roots of the movement goes. The past is a deep history of the Native Nations, the deep roots of the Jewish People, the history of all peoples, and even the history of the treaty rights. We each bring our own personal history. I marched to “ban the bomb” as a child. I marched with Martin Luther King as a teenager and with Cesar Chavez in my twenties. My personal roots run deep with my parents being activists. I saw how all these roots of the past come together for the creation of my present. My purpose is for the future – the future of our peoples, the future of our grandchildren, the future of the Missouri River, and all who live downstream. In that moment, the past, the present, and the future became one. I knew why we were there.