“Non-violent direct action has been vilified in the media, but it’s a major way that things have gotten done in this country,” said Marty Aranaydo, Mvskoke of Oakland, California.
Speaking from the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, Aranaydo, who is Tohono O’odham, Akimel O’odham, and Phillipino, emphasized, “that organizing is the power, and direct action is the muscle.”
Aranaydo is right. Everything from women’s suffrage, civil rights, Native American rights, LGBTQ rights, (the list really is too long to continue) were accomplished as a result of non-violent direct action – that is, taking direct action to stop injustice and bring greater attention to matters.
On October 18, water protectors called for reinforcements as the Dakota Access construction is quickly closing in on the Missouri River in North Dakota.
Water protectors, skilled in non-violent direct action, should plan to make their way to Standing Rock as quickly as you can get here.
This massive call-to-action is endorsed by more than 10 groups, including the Indigenous Peoples Power Project (IP3), The Ruckus Society, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor The Earth, the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the Sacred Stone Camp, West Coast Women Warriors Media Cooperative, Ancestral Pride, Digital Smoke Signals, Greenpeace USA, and The Other98.
“If we’re going to beat the pipeline, we’re going to need more people,” Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, and co-founder of the Indigenous Peoples Power Project, told me.
An informational video was released in accompaniment with the joint-statement made by the groups with the title, “Warriors Wanted.”
“We’re asking for reinforcements to come stand with us, to pray, and to protect,” Tilsen said. “Of all the times to take action, the time is now.”
On October 22, water protectors in the camps reported that Dakota Access construction was just a few miles from the camp, and approximately 5 miles from the Missouri River.
This amplified call comes on the heels of the October 9 denial of the federal injunction to halt the Dakota Access pipeline construction. After the federal injunction was lifted, Dakota Access construction immediately began working its way toward the Missouri River. The next day, hundreds of water protectors gathered at the site of Dakota Access construction. North Dakota police arrived quickly to the site with armored vehicles and assault rifles, ultimately making a total of 29 arrests.
Over the weekend, police arrested more than 100 water protectors.
In a joint statement released earlier this month, the Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior, once again, called on Energy Transfer Partners to voluntarily stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline near the Missouri River in North Dakota. Energy Transfer Partners did not stop.
“Not surprisingly, Energy Transfer Partners has ignored the Obama Administration’s call to voluntarily halt construction and continues to desecrate our sacred places,” Dave Archambault, II, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, said. “They have proven time and time again that they are more interested in money than the health and well-being of the 17 million people who get their drinking water from the Missouri River. They have bulldozed over the burials of our Lakota and Dakota ancestors and have no regard for the sanctity of these places.”
While the tribe continues to pursue all legal avenues to stop construction, organizers in the camps maintain their commitment to peaceful and prayerful non-violent direct action, which has been a major cornerstone of the months-long demonstration along the route of the pipeline.
Actions have ranged from prayer walks, to runs, rallies, marches, protests, the creation of campaign multi-media, social media campaigns, banner and sign-making, building and maintaining the resistance camps, holding space as a large group. Lock-downs to machinery in order halt construction have also been utilized.
IP3, an organization on the ground in Standing Rock, is conducting regular non-violent direct action trainings in the camps. The organization has so far trained hundreds of water protectors.
Thomas Lopez, Jr., Chicano, of Denver, Colorado, was among the many trained by IP3 in non-violent direct action earlier in September. Lopez attests not only to the value of non-violent action, but also to the value of focus and prayer.
“The entire training experience was so insightful, not just as I looked into myself, but also tried to understand things from the eyes of the oppressor,” Lopez said. “I’m not here fighting just for me, but my nieces and nephews. Thanks to this training, I realized that when engaging in non-violent direct action, I can go straight to prayer. This reminded me of who I am, and what I am here for. I remembered that prayer, peace, and love can take us farther than anything.”
Cy Wagoner, Dine’ of Shonto, Arizona, who is among the IP3 trainers who have facilitated trainings at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, said “there’s a lot of misconceptions about non-violent direct action.
“When done properly, it builds power and community, and it creates change. This is how movements are born,” he said.
While some direct-action, such as locking down to machinery, can prompt arrest, not all direct action necessitates arrest. Acts of civil disobedience, or peacefully disobeying the law without causing harm to others, is cause for arrest. You are breaking the law by choice, and for a purpose. Think lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, think Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus, and today, think water protectors locking down to DAPL machinery to stop the pipeline.
In another Facebook video posted by Mark K. Tilsen, Oglala Lakota from Porcupine, South Dakota, Tilsen delivered a poignant message to allies across the globe:
“I’m asking you to come to Standing Rock,” he said. “Follow local leadership, but you will be given autonomy to choose your actions, and how you choose to creatively stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Please. Come to Standing Rock.”
Mark Tilsen has been stationed at the Oceti Sakowin camp for the past two months, also assisting in non-violent direct action trainings.
“We need help. We need bodies on the ground,” said Tilsen. “We need people here who are dedicated and willing. This is not a tourist action. This is not a party. We’re here to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Thank you.”
Since early August, nearly 200 arrests have been made in North Dakota as water protectors have placed their bodies on the line, defending water and sacred sites from the pipeline. Water protectors continue to strategize actions daily to halt construction, but they are calling for your help.
“The threat to water is imminent, and we are calling for boots on the ground,” the 11 groups said in their call-to-action statement. “The Oceti Sakowin Camp and Sacred Stone Camp are seeking brave and dedicated water warriors to build winter camps, accept leadership from indigenous community members, and organize semi-autonomously to attack the weak points on the Black Snake.”
If you are among the millions who stand with Standing Rock, consider making your way there immediately, or at minimum, intensify support in whatever means you are capable. And as tensions heighten, it is increasingly that much more important that water protectors come focused and composed, bearing in mind that North Dakota law enforcement and pro-DAPL media eagerly await the moment that just one person slips into any semblance of hostility and/or violence. Yes, your help is needed, but just as you must come courageously, you must come responsibly.
Stop the Dakota Access pipeline. Water is life.
Sarah Sunshine Manning
Sarah Sunshine Manning (Shoshone-Paiute, Chippewa-Cree) is a mother, educator, activist, and an advocate for youth. Follow her at @SarahSunshineM.