Over Thanksgiving week, my family and I visited the Standing Rock Sioux protest camp in Cannonball, North Dakota. We went as part of the Kairos Center’s efforts to connect with struggles breaking out in communities around the country and world, and to build a new Poor People’s Campaign that can bring those communities together around our common needs.
Our delegation also included Dara Kell – filmmaker, writer and long-time leader in the work of the Poor People’s Campaign. Most of our time was spent with a delegation from Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) out of Colorado, meeting with leaders from Indigenous Environmental Network, and learning more about the history and context of this fight.
What we have seen so far is that Standing Rock is a major flashpoint in our consciousness and our understanding of who we are and what we’re up against. The camp we visited – Oceti Sakowin – is named after the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation. Their coming together today is a historic event: It has not happened since the Battle of the Little Bighorn over 100 years ago.
In addition to the native and indigenous nations coming together, Standing Rock has drawn support from struggles in the Gulf Coast and deep South around the right to clean water and sanitation, veterans calling for an end to the use of militarized force against water protectors, the Moral Mondays effort out of North Carolina that has developed into the call for a Moral Revolution of Values, and more. Read this open letter of solidarity from some of those groups and others who are calling for a New Poor People’s Campaign.
Oceti Sakowin is one of several encampments that have been set up in resistance to the development of an oil pipeline through tribal lands and under the Missouri River. While it sits on land controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, this is also the ancestral homeland of several tribal nations. This territory was affirmed as sovereign land of the Great Sioux Nation in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie.
It is being reclaimed today in the form of sacred protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which the Standing Rock leadership fears will jeopardize the Missouri River. They have requested an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be issued for the pipeline project.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company that initiated the project, is under pressure to complete the pipeline by January 1, 2017. They have relied on local police, called in police from neighboring states, and employed a private security force to protect their assets by way of rubber bullets, tear gas, water hoses, dogs and the arrests of water protectors and journalists.
Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers has issued a statement that Oceti Sakowin must be vacated as of December 5th, 2016, citing as their concern the safety of those who are encamped.
The Standing Rock Sioux leadership has responded that they will not be moved. While their request for the EIS remains pending, their resistance to protect the Missouri River goes on. And while news of “Standing Rock” often focuses on the agitational activities taking place at site of the pipeline construction, the community of the camp itself has received little attention.
Every morning at Oceti Sakowin starts with a water ceremony honoring the life-giving resources of the river and of water. A sacred fire constantly burns. Food and coffee are plentiful. It is a non-violent space that people of all backgrounds and ages have come to respect and honor, as best as we know how, seeing in this fight against the pipeline a larger fight for our values and priorities.
**UPDATE: On December 4, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers legally blocked the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. They denied Energy Transfer Partners the necessary easement to drill underneath the Missouri River. They also indicated that an Environmental Impact Statement would be pursued.
For more information about this struggle, we have compiled a list of resources below. Please let us know if you have others to add, especially as the situation continues to evolve.
Readings and Resources to Understand #NoDAPL
- Taking a Stand at Standing Rock (Statement by Chairman Archambault II in the New York Times)
- Army Corps issues eviction notice to Standing Rock protest camp, tribe chairman says (PBS)
- US Army Corps of Engineers clarifies stance on Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp (KFYR TV)
- Army will Not Grant Easement for Dakota Access Pipeline (U.S.Army)
- The Historic Victory at Standing Rock (The Atlantic)
- A History and Future of Resistance (Jacobin Magazine)
- The scale of the Mississippi River in perspective (Tech Insider via Youtube)
- The Human Right to Water at Standing Rock (Truthout)
- Standing Rock Syllabus compiled by CUNY Graduate Students
Information about Energy Transfer Partners and the Financial Background of the Dakota Access Pipeline:
- The High Risk Financing Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis)
- Who’s Banking on the Dakota Access Pipeline? (Food and Water Watch)
- DAPL Pipeline Facts (Energy Transfer Partners’ official site about the pipeline)
- Crude Oil Pipelines (links to pipeline system maps from Energy Transfer Partners)
- Sunoco Logistics to Acquire Energy Transfer Partners (Business Wire)
- Opec meeting to focus on Donald Trump amid fears of falling oil prices (The Guardian)
- US crude settles up 9.3% at $49.44 after OPEC finalizes output cut deal (CNBC)
On the use of force:
- Iraq Veterans Against the War #NoDAPL Statement of Solidarity
- Governor Uses Emergency Order to Bring Out-of-State Police to Dakota Access Pipeline Protest (EcoWatch)
- Inside the Battle Over the Dakota Access Pipeline (Antonia Juhasz/Pacific Standard Magazine)
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: ‘I’ll See You at Standing Rock’ (EcoWatch)
- After A Month of Conflict, Mass Media Arrives in Force at Standing Rock (Indian Country Today Media Network)
Organizations and websites to follow, including ways to support the camp:
- Oceti Sakowin Camp (Website)
- Stand with Standing Rock blog
- Indigenous Environmental Network (Facebook)
- Indigenous Rising Media (Facebook)
- Sacred Stone Camp list of needed supplies