Using only nonviolent methods, the Hunkpapa have mobilized support from over 200 Native American tribes. Not since Sitting Bull united the tribes to defeat Custer and the Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn have Native Americans come together this way. In addition, support is coming in from indigenous groups around the world, from major cities (Los Angeles, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Oakland, Berkeley, Portland, Seattle, Santa Barbara, Asheville NC), from labor unions (Communication Workers of America, National Nurses United, Amalgamated Transit Union, American Postal Workers Union), and many celebrities (Leonardo Di Caprio, Susan Sarandon, Riley Keough, Shailene Woodley)
They call themselves Protectors, not protestors. They have faced vicious dogs, mace, swat teams, Blackwater type mercenaries, machine guns, helicopters spraying poison, and hostility from Governor Dalrymple, who has called out the National Guard and state troopers to quell them. Homeland Security dumped out their drinking water. Their sacred land and burial grounds have been violated with sneak attacks by Energy Transfer, the pipeline company. Still, they remain nonviolent.
There is a temporary restraining order in effect until the next court hearing on October 5th. Whatever the outcome, the Protectors have vowed to remain through the bitter North Dakota winter and beyond, keeping vigil at Sacred Stone Camp and Red Warrior Camp.
What can we learn from these heroic people?
1) Restoring a sense of the sacred is effective. Land and water are precious gifts, to be protected against violation and pollution. The main weapon of these Native Americans is prayer. Their leaders are elders such as Arvol Looking Horse, holder of the Sacred White Buffalo bundle of the Lakota nation, and David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock tribe. All of us concerned about global warming and climate change would do well to include concepts such as respect and reverence for the earth in our rhetoric and political actions.
2) Nonviolence works. The memory of the gunfight between the American Indian Movement and the FBI at Wounded Knee in 1973 is all too fresh. Although it raised consciousness about the oppression of Native Americans, it left a legacy of bitterness on both sides. In contrast, the Protectors use tactics like chaining themselves to equipment, peaceful assembly at work sites, and prayer vigils, as well as vigorous lawsuits, led by an excellent legal team from Earthjustice. By remaining nonviolent, they have earned great respect and support.
and willingness to endure hardship are essential to success. The people of
Standing Rock are frightened by the massive firepower and political power
arrayed against them. They recall the
Wounded Knee massacre of 1890, when several hundred peaceful men, women and
children were slaughtered in cold blood by the Seventh Cavalry
(see The Ride to Wounded Knee http://www.paracove.com/RWK.html) Yet they persevere. Thousands of people are camping out, leaving the comforts of home and family, to maintain vigilance and prayer.
4) The enthusiasm of young people is crucial. As with the Bernie Sanders campaign, the Standing Rock Protectors are fueled by youthful energy. The Lakota nation has been diligently schooling its youth in Lakota language and tradition, and the results are manifest in the dedication of young people to preserving that which is held sacred by the tribes. In July, a group ran 2000 miles from Standing Rock to Washington, DC to deliver a petition against DAPL. Another group ran group ran 500 miles to headquarters of the Army Corps of Engineers, to ask them to withdraw the pipeline permit. This has now been done, pending further study.
5) Perserverance furthers. These people are there for the long haul. They are not Sunday demonstrators. It is their home, their sacred land and water that they are protecting, and they are not going away.
6) Social media forms an essential tool. The major media mostly ignores the unfolding drama at Standing Rock. The word is spreading through hundreds of facebook pages and online oped articles. Facebook is now jamming live feeds from the area, but news still gets out.