Do you know where your water comes from?
This week, amid a nearly complete media black-out, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began demonstrating against the construction of a pipeline through territory that was theirs, and under the Missouri River, less than a mile from their reservation…which gets its water directly from the river. The Dakota Access Pipeline will take oil from the shale fields in western North Dakota (acquired by fracking), and pipe it across 4 states into Illinois for processing.
What started as a small protest with a couple hundred people now takes up two camps in rural North Dakota, and has also spread to the capital, Bismarck. The various subdivisions of the Sioux tribes make up Seven Council Fires (called očhéthi šakówiŋ in Lakota) – traditional allies with a largely shared language, who came to each other’s aid when needed. Not surprisingly, the various tribes of the očhéthi šakówiŋ have joined in, along with representatives of dozens of other Native tribes, from Alaska to Mexico (and there are rumors that Native Hawaiians are on their way too).
In earlier planning for the pipeline, the route was scheduled to go north of Bismarck, but one of the reasons for rejecting this route was the risk of contaminating their water source. If you’re at all familiar with US geography, you’ll remember that the Missouri river flows south and east from North Dakota and feeds the Mississippi River. Contamination of the river this far north risks the water source for anyone downstream, and wildlife habitats all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has appealed to the United Nations, citing failures to follow treaties, and a court order declaring the protests “unlawful” – as if one’s right to free speech is negated because a company has lots of money.
The protesters, calling themselves protectors of the water and of unči makȟá (grandmother earth) have been, according to internal reports, peaceful. The camps are asking for no guns, no weapons…just prayer. They are making sure all people, from young children through elders, are fed, clothed, and receiving medical care as needed. The state, meanwhile, has instituted road blocks to keep people away, has reported gunshots and pipe bombs, and has declared a state of emergency.
Mni wičhóni – water is life – is a common understanding in Lakota. The only thing we need more than water is air.
You can help by signing this petition: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline
Or by donating for supplies and/or funding for Camp of the Sacred Stones: https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp