As my buddy Rob reminds me: there’s a point to everything that’s been going on in Standing Rock. It’s important to not lose sight of that.
See, this whole campaign in Standing Rock has produced some powerful and infuriating visuals and storylines. In real time, Facebook Live and Democracy Now and Unicorn Riot and every once in a while mainstream media has captured the disrespect and state violence that Native people have faced for centuries. Mainstream media has largely sucked—CNN has been especially bad, probably worse than even FoxNews—but some outlets have chronicled the disrespect.
The disrespect is not new. The violence is not new. The dehumanizing treatment on behalf of the state is not new. There has always, since the first Europeans landed on these shores, been a good portion of white people who had no trepidation about committing violence upon Native people. Now, fortunately, there are also allies of every color, including white. And those allies can see, via amazing technology, that they need to get involved and support those folks who are being violently oppressed.
That’s good. Those images are powerful. Heartbreaking. Inspiring: Natives bravely clashing with a militarized police force that shows no regards for Native bodies. Natives working together and willing to sacrifice themselves physically, mentally and legally.
We will remember those images, those videos and they likely compel us to take action. That is very important and we should be thankful for those.
But as one of my good friends reminded me, it’s also VERY IMPORTANT to remember that the clashes, the images, the sacrifice and the disrespect are not the point. There is a point, but those clashes are not the point. Those clashes, the arrests, although very noteworthy and memorable, are not the reason that these protectors are there. They are not there to raise hell.
Not at all.
Those Natives are there to stop a pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline. Period. Point blank. Bar none.
Let’s not forget that this pipeline was specifically chosen to put Native people in harm’s way. That harm was considered too risky to go near a town, Bismarck, that was predominately white. Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers, the State of North Dakota and the Energy Transfer Partners racially profiled together and determined that a Native community was better suited to absorb the risk of the pipeline spilling or bursting.
The aforementioned parties have an obligation under federal law to consult with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Therefore, not only did they racially profile and choose to put a Native community in harm’s way that they did not likewise choose to put a white community in, but they also did not even fulfill the procedural requirements to act as if they respected the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Those are two different things: they could have acted like they respected Native people and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe without actually doing so. But they did neither.
They were racist and stupid.
And now we find ourselves here. The protectors are protecting from a few agencies and companies that did not do their job. They are here to stop a pipeline. I cannot speak for all of the protectors, but from talking to quite a few of them they wouldn’t mind being home with their families or watching a football game or enjoy a heated house. Who wouldn’t? But unfortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers, the State of North Dakota and Energy Transfer Partners all acted unscrupulously and dishonorably and so the protectors are doing what needs to be done. Sacrificing. Working. Constantly.
Stopping a pipeline. Thank you to all the protectors.
#NoDAPL #MniWiconi #RezPectOurWater #StandingRock
Wesley Roach, Skan Photography
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories