Last week I embarked on the second, of what I hope to become an annual, pilgrimage to the Grafton Peace Pagoda, which is managed by Jun -san, a Buddhist nun who traveled from Japan in 1978 (the year I was born) to support the American Indian Movement. Her spiritual teacher told her before leaving Japan that in order for world peace to exist, the most militaristic, vicious and offensive country (yup, that’s US, America) must come to understand it’s indigenous ways and spiritual connections to our Earth. In bringin this light to our masses she has walked in solidarity with various tribes and Chiefs, including across the entire country on multiple occasions. Jun -san and other devoted Peace Walkers join the cause whenever the call for support and solidarity is made from the indigenous community.
I left NYC expecting to do carpentry and grounds maintenance around Jun -san’s stunning property upstate in Grafton, NY. I didn’t even get all the way to the Peace Pagoda before the plans shifted under me. Happy to be spontaneous, and excited about the prospect of my first demonstration in our nations capital, I gleefully agreed to the changed agenda. Plus, I was assured that Jun -san was thrilled in knowing what we would be doing instead.
Early Wednesday morning I joined a carpool full of Peace Walkers and headed down to Washington DC for a rally called by the Standing Rock Sioux. By noon I was standing in solidarity with indigenous people from across the US who gathered to speak their powerful truth to the media and a federal circuit court judge who is hearing arguments over the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL). Hundreds of people held signs, drummed, chanted, danced, spoke out and connected with their brothers and sisters.
This well attended demonstration of solidarity was among the most pure and beautiful demonstrations of civil unrest I have ever witnessed. There where young children playing and holding signs. Elders where held in reverence. Attention was respectfully given to the speakers throughout the entire demo. While there where some elders, Chiefs, young organizers and celebrities on the roster, there was plenty of time for anyone to approach the mic and speak their truth and wisdom to the crowd through the PA. The police kept a respectful distance. There where some really beautiful signs, flags and lots of full indiginous regalia.
I will not place importance or give energy to the company trying to build this pipe line (I will simply refer to them as “the company” in this post), I will not discuss here the proposed length of the pipe line, nor the anticipated flow, or the price tag for the DAPL. If you need that info it is available elsewhere. None of that matters to me. Here are the things that do matter (note: many of these things I learned at the rally during the speak outs and/or in dialogue with Peace Walkers during the road trip).
– the Sioux tribe has filed a federal court case against the Army Corp of Engineers for granting permissions to the company to build a pipeline near their territory and under the Missouri River.
-The four states involved and the company made decisions about the route of the pipe line without speaking to the native people who’s sovereign land these lines would cross.
– oil infrastructure is well documented to be highly unstable and extremely damaging to the local ecosystems, ground and surface waters, people, air and soil in the event of leaks, explosions or other “accidents”, which are really just eventual collateral damage for the fossil fuel industry profiteers.
– Forty-seven indigenous nations where present and represented at Standing Rock and in Washington DC (at the time of this posting there are now over 60! tribes/nations working in solidarity to stop the DAPL). They are banding together not to protest, but to protect what is rightfully theirs. Their shared land, their human rights and our water.
– As I understand it, most of these tribes Ave never buried the hatchet from disputes and skirmishes long ago. This is the first time in history that this many First Nations of Turtle Island are successfully forming an alliance. We are witnessing an historic moment.
– A native woman spoke about Homeland Security. She made the point that this is a exactly what the indigenous protectors are providing for all of us as they stand up for the shared commons. The Peace Camps in North Dakota represent nothing less than a peaceful homeland security detail.
– There is a Lakota prophesy that states that a black snake will pass across the nation and this will mark the end the world as we know it.
– A speaker drew a parallel to the black snake and the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL). The World (being a man made term) is upon its completion or end cycle. The world we live in does not respect the Earth or the vital resources she gives us. So, the protectors are allowing this world to pass in order to exalt, protect and praise Mother Earth in our new shared earthy experience.
– A relay race took place during the week before the rally. Young indigenous people ran over two thousand miles from the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota to Washington DC. They delivered a petition which had over 200,000 signatures when they arrived in DC. Denied a meeting with President Obama, they delivered the petition to the Army Corps office on Capital Hil. They have a goal of one million signatures, add yours here: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline
– Environmental racism has placed unwanted, dirty industries and infrastructure in places where people of color and/or poor people live. They do not have the political power to reject these intrusions.
– Native American reservations, sacred grounds and territories are often unhappy recipients of pipelines, landfills, fracking, nuclear waste, oil pumps, etc. This is true for other indigenous lands around the globe.
– due to these unwanted and uninvited developments nearby or on their lands, Native American homes are often compromised by toxic chemicals and their water is poisoned and rendered unfit to drink. Health issues and death are unproportionaly high in many Indian communities due, in part, to nearby dirty industry.
– because of this pollution, children are often taken from their parents and placed into foster care after pollution and toxins create an environment that is “unfit to raise children in”.
– foster care programs, the war on drugs, the school to prison pipeline, state imposed violence (like accessible force from police) and other well studied and documented socio-political issues impact Native American communities at an extremely disproportionate rate.
– in the past, construction for various projects have disturbed sacred Indian sites. This has been permitted by the Army Corps, then justified by companies claiming that no artifacts where found during construction. These companies are not funding archealogical digs, so it is it not surprising that they are not finding indigenous artefacts as they dig, drill, pave, and dump. It would be very surprising if the companies are not actively covering up any discoveries of artifacts they may have inadvertently made, in order continue extracting resources and wealth from these lands.
– the DAPL’s originally planned path would have passed by (about 100 miles from) a community where primarily non-indigenous people live, but that community raised a stink about it and, without fanfare or a federal court case, convinced the company to rerouted the pipeline. It is now designed to pass by (within 10 miles of) Indian territory.
– our Constitution includes a Treaty Clause which priorities treaties. Even still, we (the Us Government) are in violation of many, probably most, of the treaties made with the First Nation peoples.
– Native Americans have tribal sovereignty in the US. They make their own laws and govern themselves.
Native Americans once occupied and dwelled upon all of the habitable lands in the Americas, from Canada to Tierra del Fuego, California to Maine.
– Pilgrims lived peacefully with natives for about 55 years. Indians showed the first white settlers how to live on the land. The second generation of white colonizer a forgot about this and started disrespecting the natives. Since then, colonizer a have essentially attempted genocide on these peoples. In some cases it has come to pass, who remembers the last of the Mohicans?
– Today, Native Americans make up one of the smallest percentages of ethnicities and are primarily confined to Indian reservations, which are located in some of the most inhospitable portions of land within the United States.
– Native Americans “own” the land, mineral rights and river beds located on their territories. (I used quotations around own because Native Peoples believe in collective ownership and reject private ownership.)
– the indigenous protectors at Standing Rock are a peaceful, praying people. There has been no violence reported in these prayer camps.
– Native Americans smoke pipes they do this for peace and prayer, for ceremony and ritual. They speak about these pipes regularly.
-a police officer who overheard discussion of pipes told news outlets that there are pipe bombs. This is slanderous and repeating it in the news is libel.
– While neither the people in these camps nor the company’s private security around the camps carry guns, there are checkpoints to enter the camps where there are lots of what seem to be armed militia. It is unclear why they are there or who placed them there.
– As I understand it, this is the first time in history that this many (at least 47) First Nations of Turtle Island are forming a successful alliance. They are banding together not to protest, but to protect the commons which we all share, including land, their human rights and our water.
– the company responsible for constructing the DAPL, has yet to receive a permit to cross the Missouri River, yet construction continues elsewhere.
– there is a prayer camp (actually two camps now) that have successfully stopped DAPL construction near the Indian territory. These camps have about 2,000 people at this point.
– North Dakota officials have declared a state of emergency. They have come down on the camps and arrested at least a dozen peaceful protectors.
– The company filed a restraining order against some protectors including the Sioux Chief.
– State officials recently cut off water supplies to the camps.
– the natives have been denied the right to defend their own territory and resources. [UPDATE: Judge rejects motion to restrict pipeline protestors]
– the police, who are supposed to serve and protect the people, are essentially acting as a security force for the company.
– An indigenous woman speaking out at the rally stated that the use of the word Dakota in the DAPL title is particularly offensive as it is a Lakota word that means friend.
– A Peace Walker friend pointed out that the DAPL name is actually quite fitting. The Dakota Access Pipe Line seems to be bringing together all First Nation tribes as friends (AKA Dakota), encouraging them to access and share a peace pipe as they form a line of solidarity to protect their land and water.
– Very few mainstream media sources are giving this uprising fair coverage. As mentioned, some are repeating lies and starting unnecessary controversy. Despite this, here is one account that I have found poignant from MSNBC.
Outside of the mainstream media, indipendant media groups (like Unicorn Riot) are documenting the Peace Camps and sending the message out to the world. Here are some of my favorites…