Water is Life: Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

Hey guys! Hope you’re all fine and dandy. Regular readers of this blog and my Breathing Ghosts Series blog (that’s probably you!) will know that I mainly use it  to post book and film reviews and updates on my creative writing (I’m currently editing the first draft of my new YA novel, Trolheart.) However, the great thing about blogging is that you can also of course use a blog to promote and publicize events and causes that you’re passionate about, and I’ve done this various times- I have done special blog posts for International Women’s Day, LGBT History Month, and Transgender Awareness Week, and a post written in memory of Sophie Lancaster (written with the permission of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.) These type of posts are very important to me, and often personally rewarding to write, and I hope that you find them interesting to read. So now it is time to shine the spotlight on another cause close to my heart- that of the movement against the  Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in the US and the horrific impact it has had on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

For the sake of clarity, I should say that I am BY NO MEANS an expert on Native American history– any historical inaccuracies here are mine and unintentional-and I myself am not Native American- but I have tried to educate myself on their culture, myths, legends, and and stories. I have also visited the American Museum in Bath and I am a HUGE fan of Native American singers such as Buffy Sainte Marie- whose music was once blacklisted by the US government- for many years (it was a dream come true when I got to see her perform live a few years ago.)

With this in mind, Native American culture and history- and the invaluable legacy it has left behind- is something I am deeply fascinated by, and have been for a long time For me, Native American culture is something that should be respected, not appropriated or sold off. Native Americans weren’t just persecuted- they were the victims of a genocide. Over 300 Lakota were brutally killed at Wounded Knee in Dakota alone. Children were split from their families and shuttled into boarding schools, where they were taught to suppress and forget their traditions and languages. They were forced to sell off their sacred land and their burial grounds were ransacked and/or destroyed. And persecution and prejudice is still going on today.

Because of all this, I am unsettled by popular cultural appropriation of Native American emblems- e.g. white people wearing fake Native American war bonnets at music festivals, and so on- and by America’s habit of ‘whitewashing’ Native Americans out of mainstream culture- or even worse, leaving them out completely. (For instance, in the recent Peter Pan film adaptation, Pan, the part of Tiger Lily- traditionally seen as a Native American character- was played by Rooney Mara, a white actress. A petition against Mara’s employment gained more than 94, 000 signatures.) Native Americans still continued to be sidelined, persecuted, and discriminated- and as this article by Julian Brave NoiseCat states, jobs are scarce, healthcare is poor, housing is in short supply, and a a staggering 24% of reservation residents cannot find employment.

For me, such discrimination is highly apparent in the protests surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the persecution of water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. But what is the DAPL? It is a massive oil pipeline set to railroad right through a Native American community– drilled straight through Standing Rock-evicting the Oceti Sakowin tribe (Sitting Bull’s kin) in the process. If this happens (and Trump is of course pushing for this to go through- after Obama halted its progress,  on February 7, 2017, Trump authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed.)

Here are some facts about the DAPL via the Huffington Post website:

-The protesters want to see construction of the pipeline halted entirely and its route changed, especially given the escalating number of oil pipeline accidents in recent years.

-The pipeline poses a “high risk that culturally and historically significant sites will be damaged or destroyed” and threatens the safety of the tribe’s drinking water supply.

The United Nations is currently investigating the tribe’s allegations that law enforcement is committing human rights violations.

DAPL could have disastrous consequences not only for Native Americans and their sacred burial grounds, but also for the other surrounding people as an oil spill could pollute the water for miles around. In September 2016 construction workers bulldozed a section of land the tribe had identified as sacred ground and when protesters entered the area security workers used attack dogs which bit at least six of the protesters and one horse.(Source: Wikipedia.) Unarmed protesters- ‘water protectors’- have also been attacked with water cannons, rubber bullets, tear gas,pepper spray and sound cannons. They have also had to endure freezing conditions. There have been allegations of harsh treatment, and of protesters being forcibly strip searched.

 Big Little Lies actress Shailene Woodley, arrested on 10/10/2016 along with 27 others, also said she was strip-searched, adding, “Never did it cross my mind that while trying to protect clean water, trying to ensure a future where our children have access to an element essential for human survival, would I be strip-searched. I was just shocked.” The growing #NoDAPL grassroots movement has gained the support of not only high-profile actors such as Woodley and Mark Ruffalo, but also civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, (who have all been involved in protests) Senator Bernie Sanders, and additional support from war veterans, Amnesty International and Black Lives Matter. Solidarity marches, protests and rallies have happened all over the US and even in the UK, with a National Day of Action last year.

After months of protests, Standing Rock was eventually evicted, but the tribe’s struggle was publicized via social media- with hashtags such as #NoDAPL, #WaterisLife #MniWiconi (translation: ‘Water is Life’) and #IStandWithStandingRock all going viral, and protests being streamed on Facebook and YouTube. People have woken up to the horrific treatment of the Standing Rock community and the negative consequences the DAPL could have- so much so that on September 20, 2016, Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault II addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, where he called “upon all parties to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

The struggle to stop DAPL is far from over, and here’s what YOU can do to help:

-If you have a blog, post about the #NoDAPL movement and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

-Learn more about the OcetiSakowin tribe here

-Get involved with marches and events by signing up here

-Sign the petition to stop DAPL on Change.org

Donate directly to the Standing Rock reservation

To donate to the Standing Rock’s Legal Fund in opposition to DAPL and KXL:

http://standwithstandingrock.net/donate/

-To learn more, or to donate to Community Development non-profit organizations:

-To learn more or to donate to youth non-profits programs:

To learn more or to donate to Sitting Bull College:
https://sittingbull.edu/ways-to-give/

All these links and more information are available on the Standing Rock homepage.

Remember, water is life, and you can’t drink oil.

Please note: I have made every effort to credit my sources of information, but if I have missed anyone out unintentionally, please contact me and I will happily rectify any mistakes. Art is via art-and-anarchy on Tumblr and may be by Shepard Fairey.

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