Increasing tension at Standing Rock calls for resources, not ally theater
In a conclusion to Native Heritage Month no less repugnant than celebrating Thanksgiving, police forces at Standing Rock, North Dakota have taken new leaps in brutalizing unarmed protestors.
On the night of Sunday, Nov. 20, authorities unleashed tear gas, pepper spray, concussion grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons on an estimated 400 weaponless demonstrators. At least 17 of those protesters were hospitalized, while another 200 suffered injuries inflicted by rubber bullets, shrapnel and chemical gases — some exhibited preliminary signs of hypothermia as a result of being blasted by water cannons in below-freezing temperatures. In the most extreme cases, two elders went into cardiac arrest and a young woman is at risk of losing her arm after a concussion grenade detonated on it.
This escalation of violent force is tethered to the ongoing conflict between Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), a Dallas-based oil giant, and the Oceti Sakowin people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and their thousands of supporters regarding the $3.78 million, 1,172 mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline, set to be constructed by the end of this year, would not only intersect grounds sacred to the inhabiting indigenous communities but — being a conduit for crude oil — threaten to pollute the region’s primary source of drinking water.
Accusations of violence have been made by both law enforcement and protesters, or water protectors, since the DAPL dispute started in April 2016. Police officials in the area have deemed the movement an “ongoing riot.” They defended their use of the aforementioned brutalities by claiming they were purely methods of “crowd control” against demonstrators who were trying to dismantle a police barricade, though the barrier was making it difficult for emergency services to access activist camps.
The contention over the DAPL is a bitter continuation of America’s disgraceful history with its indigenous people. Despite the countless arrests, injuries and mounting hostilities, two of the nation’s most prominent figureheads have remained silent.
Water protectors are awaiting any sort of response from President Barack Obama, who in the 2011-2012 Keystone XL Pipeline controversy, which has many parallels to DAPL, denied its permit for construction. President-elect Donald Trump, who invested half a million to $1 million in ETP back in 2015, also has yet to make a statement regarding DAPL. However, in news chilling for DAPL protesters and environmentalists in general, the first of many “Trump deals,” a merger between two oil giants including ETP, has been officiated. Though the forecast seems victorious for oil and energy corporations under Trump’s presidency, the ever-growing unity and resistance exhibited by protesters is a hopeful force against them.
The indigenous people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation have garnered thousands of allies from all over the United States who have joined them in at the front line and can be considered one of the largest Native American protests, with the support of over 100 different tribes.
The nationwide ripple effect of the DAPL has hit Davis, where a number of teach-ins, writers circles and protests have taken place within the past few weeks. However, in supporting the water protectors at the DAPL, there are several important notions to understand in order to be an effective, constructive ally — so don’t pack up and head to Standing Rock just yet.
A Standing Rock Facebook page has made a plea for supporters to stay at home unless they are in correspondence with an indigenous person at one of the camps. Non-indigenous bodies only detract resources from those that the protest belongs aims to protect. Indigenous sovereignty is paramount, and those heading to Standing Rock to “resumé build” via photography or journalism need to consider their actions a “furthering of colonization” and take a back seat.
The human rights of America’s indigenous people are at stake once again. We cannot allow the focus to shift from them.
The Editorial Board stands with Standing Rock.
Please contribute and support the water protectors by sharing stories of what’s happening at DAPL, staying informed and most importantly: DONATING. Activists are in need of medical supplies, tents, extreme weather clothing, gas masks, food and more.
Remember: Water is life.