Water is life – Mní Wiĉhóni – Tó éí ííná át’é: Part 1

*This post was written before Oct. 26, 2016 and was submitted for a local publication, but I have yet to recieve a response. I decided to post it here to give my perspective on #NoDAPL and #WaterIsLife movement. I will be following up with a Part 2.*

When I wake up, the first thing I usually do is check my FaceBook.  Reconnecting with folks and wondering what I had missed because I decided to go to bed earlier than others on Brown’s campus. I scroll past the photos, the statuses, and the links shared by my family and friends. I like and react to each of them. At some point, the photos and videos being shared and posted turn to what is happening in North Dakota. My insides begin to twist and my heart begins to hammer against my chest.

The photos portray one thing in common – Indigenous Peoples, and their allies, being terrorized by the now heavily militarized state police. It is the same scene that I have come to familiarize myself with every week since #NoDAPL and #StandWithStandingRock have gained international surveillance on the internet because of Amy Goodman’s report on September 3, 2016. In which the water protectors were pepper-sprayed and attacked by the dogs of the private security that were hired by Energy Transfers Partners, L.P.

Since April, Indigenous Peoples and their allies have been actively uprising against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Hundreds of folx, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, within and across the ‘United States’ have gathered together at Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí (Sacred Stone Camp) in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The camp is filled with family, women, children, and elders. It has been visited by over 300 federally recognized tribes. On the Oceti Sakowin Camp website, the camp is a camp of prayer and non-violence. They are peaceful and are water protectors, not protesters. Weapons, alcohol, and substances are not allowed in the camp.The water protectors are self-sustaining and self-sufficient. Each and every one of them are working to protect the land and the people from the environmental and cultural threat that is the Dakota Access Pipeline.

DAPL, owned by Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., is proposed to transport thousands of Bakken crude oil per day. If finished, from the lands of North Dakota to Illinois. As of now, it is approximately 60% completed. DAPL threatens everything and everyone who rely upon farming, drinking water, wildlife, and food sources that surround the Missouri River. While also threatening the sacred sites of the Oceti Sakowin, or the Seven Council Fires which is the proper name for the people commonly known as the ‘Sioux’. On October 22, 2016, 7 weeks later, a peaceful ceremony ended with 141 people arrested and 200 to 300 people pepper sprayed.

The land has a past. The land has a present.

In her work, In Plain Sight: Inscripted Earth and Invisible Realities, Monique Mojica describes the land as an archive. She argues that Indigenous peoples’ and their identities, histories, knowledges are defined by the land. Mounds, earthworks, wall paintings, and other sacred sites are inscribed with the knowledges, or stories, from a specific time and place. These sacred sites of prayer and ceremony are embedded with the knowledges of one’s ancestry. Therefore, they hold a spiritual significance for the ancestors of those who created them. They provide the crucial understanding that people are connected to the earth and the earth can be connected to them.  

Indigenous peoples’ histories and narratives outline the importance of maintaining balance and harmony with the land. Within Diné (Navajo) culture, community values live in oral histories and narratives. It is within these narratives that Diné culture, language, and ways of explaining the universe are preserved. From the Diyin Dine’é (holy people), the Diné, receive the knowledge, material gifts, and rituals and ceremonies for a proper life and the proper relationship with the world and all beings. These stories, these narratives of creation and interaction with beings of higher power have sustained and nurtured Indigenous peoples since the beginnings of human consciousness. They exist to this day, despite Indigenous Peoples still facing genocide from all around them.

Mother Earth and Father Sky. They protect and provide.

The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline violates treaty rights and has desecrated hundreds of cultural and sacred sites of the Oceti Sakowin. Their connection to the land is being actively severed and their archive of knowledge is being attacked. Indigenous peoples are fighting against and have been fighting against a monster that has been and continues to be sustained by the genocide and erasure of Indigenous peoples and their knowledges.

For seeking to protect the water and the land, the water protectors at Sacred Stone Camp have endured intimidation and harassment by Energy Transfer’s private security and U.S. policy. In a recent article, The Huffington Post, describes that the water protectors and their allies are being physically violated, dehumanized and demoralized by the police who have strip searched and forced them to “squat and cough”.  In an online video streamed by Bioneers, Kandi Mossett said that #NoDAPL “started in prayer and ceremony…We know that we have a huge fight and we’re not guaranteed to win any fight when we speak up and speak our voice. But, we know that we are guaranteed to fail if we don’t at least try…We need you all.” The call for allyship has been issued. DAPL threatens not only threatens the larger ecological system, but also threatens Indigenous peoples, their knowledges, and their humanity.

The land is an archive. Water is Life

For more information to support and continue the protection of water and life, please visit: http://www.bioneers.org/five-ways-support-water-protectors-standing-rock-north-dakota/

For more information of #StandingRock and #NoDAPL, there is a syllabus found here: https://nycstandswithstandingrock.wordpress.com/standingrocksyllabus/

In addition, this article was written before the events of Oct. 26, 2016 in which a heavily armed militarized police force raided the water protectors. Unfortunately, I currently do not have the emotional/spiritual/mental well-being to adequately address that event. Therefore, linked here is an article by Democracy Now!


*Part 2 will be posted soon with direct action resources and plans*

*Updated: Part 2 was posted on November 24, 2016*

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