Chicago—As part of over 200 solidarity actions on Sept. 13, 150 people gathered at the Kwagulth Indian Totem Pole in Lincoln Park to register their support for the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fighting to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. (See “Lakota protest Dakota Access oil pipeline,” Sept.-Oct. N&L.) The movement Camp of Sacred Stones in North Dakota has drawn participants from over 200 tribes as well as many non-Natives.
Thousands of people across the U.S. and in countries from Japan to the UK participated in the coordinated actions on Sept. 13. Dozens of people blocked streets in Toronto’s Financial District. Maine Students for Climate Justice held a sit-in at the Maine Public Utilities Commission. And activists blocked construction of a natural gas pipeline near Hines, Vermont.
Native ceremonial elder Singing Man of the Southern Arapaho from Oklahoma spoke to the crowd to begin the Chicago event. He stressed that the U.S. had violated every treaty it has reached with Native American peoples, but that this movement can win. He said we are not protesters but protectors of Mother Earth.
Lucy Hoffman explained to the crowd the significance of the totem pole. She said she was there to support Standing Rock and also to ask for our support for her people in British Columbia (where the original Chicago totem pole came from) and other peoples against industrial salmon farming operations there that breed parasites and diseases decimating the native salmon.
One participant told N&L: “I am Choctaw, Blackfoot, Irish and African American, so for me it’s really important to come together and stand up for this. It’s important this is being done here in Chicago. We are coming together to support this movement. People are trying to find a way to do something that isn’t violent and is coming from the heart. I would ask people to open your eyes, do the research. When you go back and see how the history is, it’s very clear what’s going on now.”
We took note of the victory of making the Obama administration order a halt for now to construction under the Missouri River. At the same time we were cognizant that the order only applies to a small section of the 1,172-mile pipeline, and construction on most of it continues.
On the very day of our protest, riot police pulled out assault rifles on peaceful water protectors in North Dakota, arresting 20 for blocking construction, including two journalists from Unicorn Riot. Morton County had already issued an arrest warrant for Amy Goodman for criminal trespass, after Democracy Now! broadcast video of the pipeline company’s security guards attacking water protectors with dogs and pepper spray. Organizer Cody Hall was also charged with trespass, thrown in jail and denied bail for three days.
At the end much of the crowd walked down to Lake Michigan for a water ceremony led by Cyndi Huston. All of us left with a determination to continue and spread this vital movement.
Sept. 16, 2016