“They are coming for all of our rights, it’s not just the Mexicans, people who also have an original claim and an original identity in this hemisphere being declared an illegal human being, having a wall built between them and their families, and their loved ones. It’s not just the entirety of the peace-loving Muslims in this world who are being discriminated against, who are having their rights violated right now and you see all over our country, this is our country, this isn’t Trump’s country. We are going to have to stand up, in peace and dignity, to face down our enemy . . . which is fear, division, and confusion, all of which the corporate state, the mass media, and the government of the United States perpetrates on our populations.
There are people who are woke, who are getting woke, and who are going to stay woke, and we still have warriors among us. I am proud, happy and dignified to stand in the light, with our brothers and sisters, our two-spirit nation, people who do not fit the demographic that Trump is seeking to protect and elevate, which is the well capitalized, euro, hetero, patriarchy. We do not fit that, so we are on the chopping block. Native nations are facing termination right now, and we have to stand up. We don’t have a choice, our children are looking to us to stand up for them. Just the same as Crazy Horse stood up for us. Just the same as Sitting Bull stood up for us. It’s time for us to look within . . . and seek that liberation.”
– Chase Iron Eyes, moments before getting arrested on February 1st, 2017
“Your resistance doesn’t have to be loud, grand, or sweeping. It just needs to exist. It needs to center on vulnerable people.”
– K.T. Ewing
Standing Rock still stands strong. A lack of transparent media representation has made it challenging for a lot of us to stay properly informed and engaged with the continued struggle for indigenous sovereignty and the right to clean drinking water. Still, it is so much deeper then that.
I’ve been following Standing Rock closely. I stood with my body alongside the water protectors in mid to late December 2016 to see for myself what was going on. While there, I recorded many dialogues, stories and songs while sobering insights were delivered straight into my heart daily. I will continue to stand with Standing Rock for as long as it takes, which will certainly require more than my lifetime will allow. This is a struggle that future generations will undeniably inherit. In the meantime, allow me to share some updates about recent events that have been taking place on the ground there, and beyond.
On February 1st, 2017, Last Child Camp was established at Standing Rock near Oceti Sakowin Camp, on higher ground west of Highway 1806. This was a prayerful, symbolic encampment that was met with a lot of tension from law enforcement officials, who arrested 76 people that day for being on contested treaty land (land on Standing Rock Indian Reservation that is privatized by the pipeline’s developer, Energy Transfer Partners). Most people that were part of Last Child Camp were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing and inciting a riot, bringing the total number of arrests since Standing Rock’s inception up to over 700.
Out of the 76 arrested on February 1st was a Lakota activist and Lakota People’s Law Project attorney named Chase Iron Eyes. Chase is a revolutionary tribal leader in the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose hand I shook and body I hugged on those snowy covered Lakota plains in astounding gratitude for the work that he is doing on behalf of this movement.
I watched Chase selflessly help the community at Standing Rock navigate through the challenging conditions of building a community and forging an effective political movement from the ground up in the middle of a North Dakota winter. He has remained enormously poised and steadfast throughout this process. Chase led meetings in the geodesic dome daily so that people’s concerns could be voiced and issues resolved. He demonstrated the kind of leadership that is so dearly lacking in our larger body politic and current administration. Chase was arrested by law enforcement officials this past week, and is now facing up to five years in prison for a class C felony on the basis of inciting a riot.
There were many other arrests that day. Among them, an accomplished journalist Jenni Monet, a 40-year old Native American that was arrested and treated like a criminal by Morton County Sheriffs last week while covering Standing Rock. Jenni is an established journalist, having written for Center for Investigative Reporting, PBS Newshour, High Country News, Public Radio International, Yes! Magazine, and Indian Country Today. She is now facing the same allegations that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! faced back in September from reporting candidly from Standing Rock. Amy’s charges have since been dropped, but Jenni has been charged with two misdemeanors – one for trespassing and the other for inciting a riot.
Independent journalists are currently under threat for reporting social and political movements that ruffle the feathers of business as usual. They are facing legal repercussions for exercising their freedom of speech and right to assemble according to the First Amendment and the democratic principles that this country was founded upon. This has tremendous implications for every journalist out there that wants to cover a protest or any sort of political uprising, not to mention all of us that value transparent and honest reporting.
Despite all of this, there is a plethora of up-to-date, solid information that has been coming out of the woodwork from Standing Rock, albeit from independent journalists, the ripple effect has been strong. Livestream features that are suddenly permeating our awareness have given rise to the opportunity to stay cognitively and empathically in touch with what is happening out there as it is unfolding in real time. It is amazing that we live in such a time when this orientation is even possible. Nobody has an excuse to turn a blind eye anymore. We are swimming in a sea of information and there are reservoirs of truthful media to be feasted upon, to let our consciousness be guided by, and out of the tornado of this gravely imbalanced ethos that we call American culture, which seeks to disempower and misinform its citizens while perpetuating indiscriminate violence against its people, I often wonder when enough is actually going to be enough for a revolution to take root?
For Native Americans, and for people who have been culturally or racially targeted and historically oppressed, enough is enough and it’s now or never. Standing Rock represents an unprecedented example of a people’s-led resistance movement, an indigenous-centered, politically driven effort to reclaim social and spiritual sovereignty.
We are being called to create an inclusive culture where our collective, historical blind spots can be exposed and acknowledged in a way that allows for the active and often visceral transmutation of the inherited cultural karma that we all carry. I trust we are up for the task at hand, or that we will be soon, as we learn how to hold space for each other to skillfully deconstruct our own shadows as individuals and as a nation. What is required is a sense of reflection and renewal so prolific, so unparalleled with the lack of maturity that our government has been known to exhibit, that it sets a whole new precedent for how human beings fundamentally relate to one another and to the earth.
In other Standing Rock news, Seattle city council recently voted to pull $3 billion in city funds from Wells Fargo last Wednesday, a massive defunding action that halted subsidies that were otherwise going to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline. Major cities are following suit, engaging in nation-wide bank exit strategies to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Nation.
Today, water protectors remain at Standing Rock, where they are actively moving to higher ground while cleaning up the grounds. Forcible removal feels imminent although nobody at camp is complicit with such actions. No matter what happens from here on out, Standing Rock has set off a spark that has turned into something inextinguishable, with a level of momentum that is, in and of itself, historical.
With Trump’s recent executive order to advance the construction of The Dakota Access Pipeline along with the easement that the Department of Army literally just granted while I was writing this article, the task of carrying the resistance forward to protect the rights of indigenous people has never been more critical. The 18 million living downstream from the Missouri River, whose drinking water and personal survival is now threatened by the confirmed expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline need our prayers and support. We must stand strong from wherever our vantage point. Water is life and always will be, despite what this administration says or does. Despite how much us westerners have forgotten their connection to the living earth. This is going to be a long and enduring uphill battle, and things are about to get a whole lot dicier.
Cover Photo taken by Salix Roots, Standing Rock Indian Reservation, December 2016