“The courage and eloquence of the Standing Rock Sioux in calling all of us to recognize that in their words, ‘Water is Life,’ should be applauded, not silenced by those who are driven by their business model to continue spewing harmful global warming pollution into our Earth’s atmosphere. This is also an opportunity to acknowledge and learn from the traditional values being expressed by the Standing Rock Sioux to protect life on Earth” ~ Al Gore.
This past week has seen the most aggressive and intense conflict since protests began in April of this year at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
On Thursday 28th October around 200 law enforcement officers from at least five states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming and Nebraska) moved onto the site, using pepper spray to force the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters off land owned by the pipeline developer. This has so far resulted in a total of 141 water protectors being arrested since last weekend.
The tribe is firmly standing their ground in an attempt to prevent the construction of a $3.7 billion pipeline (which would run within half a mile of Standing Rock Sioux reservation) as they believe it will endanger their water supply and cause damage to ancient burial and sacred prayer sites.
If the pipeline is completed it will transfer crude oil from the Brakken field in the northwestern area of North Dakota and run southeast and through South Dakota and Iowa and then join an already constructed pipeline hub in Patoka, Illinois.
More than 90 Native American tribes, as well as actors/actresses, journalists, filmmakers and prominent activists, have united at the site to offer support.
Actor Mark Ruffalo is one of those passionately supporting the Standing Rock Sioux. Ruffalo spoke to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell explaining, “They’re young people, 15-year-old girls, getting maced in the face today, rubber bullets in the face today. They asked the young people to leave today, they said, ‘No, we’re going to fight for our lives, we’re fighting for our water. This is a second genocide for us.’” Adding, “I looked in their eyes. I knew what their intent was. They’re not there to hurt anybody. They’re there to protect their land.”
“I went to the frontline in prayer for protection of the Missouri River & found myself in what I can only describe as a war zone. I was sprayed in the face with pepper spray, the guy next to me was shot by something that didn’t break the skin but appeared to have broken the ribs & another guy beside me was randomly snatched violently by police shoving me into the officers who held me off with batons then tried to grab me. I’m still in shock & keep waiting to wake from what’s surely a nightmare though this is my reality as a native woman in 2016 trying to defend the sacred.”
Although this week has been a turbulent one, cheers from the crowd were heard today despite the volatility. The water protectors received a blessing, as hundreds of wild buffalos stampeded in the near distance.
The protectors have viewed this visit as a gift from the Great Spirit as throughout this standoff they have been praying to the American bison, known as Tatanka Oyate in Lakota, asking for assistance.
Birgil Kills Straight explains the significance of the buffalo to the tribe:
“The four leggeds came before the two leggeds. They are our older brother, we came from them. Before them, we were the root people. We came from them. We are the same thing. That is why we are spiritually related to them. We call them in our language ‘Tatanka,’ which means ‘He Who Owns Us’. We cannot say that we own the buffalo because he owns us.”
The Native Americans view the return of buffalos as a positive omen, believing, according to Lakota leader and prophet Black Elk (1863-1950), that when the buffalo return, the “Sacred Hoop” will be mended and Indian nations will become strong again.
In response to the escalating events at Standing Rock, Dave Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said, “We need our state and federal governments to bring justice and peace to our lands, not the force of armored vehicles… We won’t step down from this fight. As peoples of this earth, we all need water. This is about our water, our rights, and our dignity as human beings.”
Pipelines are a real and serious concern as just last week 55,000 gallons were spilled into one of the U.S.’s most endangered rivers in Pennsylvania, threatening the drinking water of up to six million people.
Oil spills are not rare occurences. Sunoco Logistics (the pipeline company who own the pipleline in Gambletown Pennsylvania) have had a recorded 200 leaks on their pipes since 2010.
Sunoco’s parent company, Energy Transfer, is the company responsible for constructing the Dakota Access pipeline.
In total there were 3,000 pipeline spills in the US between 2010 and 2015.
“The effort to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are respected are not only issues of civil rights and religious freedom, but reflect the choice we must make to ensure a sustainable, just, fair and healthy future for all generations to come.” ~ Al Gore
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If you would like to find out how to participate in protecting this sacred land see more here.
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Sara Kärpänen