Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee held an awareness and fundraising event for the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is not a protest; the native peoples are protectors; the action is a call to prayer and ceremony for all our lands and clean waters.
Learn more by reading below:
Hear the words of Corrina Gould of the Ohlone nation of California:
Creator, we are praying today for the women all over the world who stand for water. The women, mothers, grandmothers who stand at the front lines, protecting the waters…as indigenous people we know that all of life, humans, plants, birds, fish, four-legged, none of us can survive without water…Please, we ask you to please call all of your ancestors into this place, help us save our waters. Grandmothers, we thank you for this day, for all our relations in North Dakota. We do this for the next seven generations. We promise you, we will stop these pipelines wherever they are.
In the United States, the modern roots and spiritual center of indigenous struggle are interred at the village of Wounded Knee on the Ogalala Lakota Nation’s Pine Ridge Reservation. There, on December 28, 1890, the Seventh Cavalry intercepted a band of some four hundred Miniconjou (Minny-Con-Jew) and Hunkpapa Lakota from the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock reservations under the leadership of Chief Bigfoot.
The army ordered them to camp along the banks of Wounded Knee Creek.
The Lakota were followers of the prophet Wovoka’s Ghost Dance movement, which taught that the dead would return, the colonists would be driven off, and tribes would be united, bringing peace and prosperity to the dispossessed.
They wore painted white robes which they believed would stop bullets.
On the morning of December 29, during a confused effort to disarm the encampment, a shot rang out. With Hotchkiss machine guns already trained on the camp, the cavalry opened fire, slaughtering Lakota people and even some of their own soldiers. Cavalrymen hunted down women and children as they fled. It is this same place where a proposed pipeline project has met fierce resistance.
Hear the words of LaDonna Bravebull Allard of the Lakota, Dakota nation:
The place where the pipeline will cross on the Cannonball River is the place where the Mandan came into the world after the great flood, it is also a place where the Mandan had their Okipa, or Sundance. Later, this is where Wisespirit and Tatanka Ohitika hel sundances. There are numerous old Mandan, Cheyenne, and Arikara villages located in this area and burial sites. This is also where the sacred medicine rock (is located) which tells the future.
On September 28, 2016, Native Americans once again arrived at the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site to halt work and hold prayer ceremonies, praying to protect their sacred land and protect their water. Police arrived with several military-style armored vehicles and threatened the water protectors with shotguns. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there are reports of up to 21 arrests.
A large oil company called Energy Transfer Partners wants to build a pipeline, through 4 states to Illinois. Originally this Dakota Access Pipeline was to cross the Missouri River near the state capitol, Bismark. But citizens there, mostly Anglo, protested because they were worried about pipeline breaks. So the company rerouted the pipeline to an area alongside to the Standing Rock Reservation where it will now cross the river.
Of course, the tribe protested, and then sued, to have the pipeline stopped. The tribe was worried about a leak polluting the river, their source of water. They also worried about the destruction of sacred land. The pipeline was on private property right next to the reservation. That land was originally Indian land. According to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, that land that should have been protected under Federal Statute. However, when gold was discovered, the government reduced the protected area. In 1868, the reservation was formed.
Hear the words of Kandi Mosset of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikars people:
The land in question is the traditional territory of my ancestors. It gives me goosebumps every time I think about the significance of this gathering (at standing rock) with all these different tribes. It just makes me want to cry, the beauty of it. We’re setting precedents in this country around Native Americans finally being heard, because, you know, we never went anywhere.
For over 500 years, we’ve been screaming the same thing about capitalism, and colonization, and the greed, and the taking of the Earth and how it was going to come back to get us, and now it is. The history of environmental mismanagement on these lands is inseparable from the history of colonization and appropriation. Lake Oahe, under which the pipeline would bore, was created in the late 1940s along with four other large dams, largely as flood control for cities like St. Louis.
Yet flood control was necessary only because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had previously removed the Missouri River’s natural flood controls, its marshes, and wetlands. Every one of the five reservoirs forced the relocation of hundreds of people without their consent and flooded some of the most fertile agricultural lands in the area.
On April 1st, 2016, tribal citizens of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation and ally Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota citizens founded a Spirit Camp along the proposed pipeline route. The name of the Spirit Camp is translated as Sacred Rock, the original name of the Cannonball area. The Spirit Camp is dedicated to stopping the Dakota Access pipeline and to protecting water resources.
Native Americans reject the appropriation of the name “Dakota” in a project that is in violation of aboriginal and treaty lands. The word Dakota means “the People” in the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota language and was never intended to be used in a project which violates traditional ceremonial areas.
Hear the words of Joye Braun of the Cheyenne River people:
The dangers imposed by the greed of big oil on the people who live along the Missouri river is astounding. When this proposed pipeline breaks, as the vast majority of pipelines do, over half of the drinking water in South Dakota will be affected… It must be stopped. The people of the four bands of Cheyenne River stand with our sister nation in this fight as we are calling on all the Oceti Sakowin or Seven Council Fires to do so with our allies, both native and non-native in opposing this pipeline.
In August, construction was continuing and Native Americans asked for an emergency injunction. But before a ruling could be made bulldozers were brought in. The protesters broke through the fence to stop the destruction of sacred lands and artifacts. They were met by private security guards using pepper spray and guard dogs.
Two weeks later, on Sept 9, a federal judge ruled in favor of the pipeline company, but the Justice Department ordered a halt to construction until further review. So now everything is on hold.
Hear the words of Carol Standing Elk of the Lakota nation:
I am so thankful for the young people now defending mother earth. We have lived through genocide, and our children are even stronger. We are grateful to all those who help us. Now we are praying for a good resolution. We can’t live without air or water. It is up to us now to let these companies know that profits don’t keep us alive. I’m not as young as I once was, but in my heart and mind, I will never stop fighting for our rights as Indian people.
Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II and other tribal leaders traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with United Nations ambassadors taking part in panel discussions about the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Archambault told the U.N:
“The world needs to know what is happening to the Indigenous Peoples of the United States. This pipeline violates our treaty rights and our human rights, and it violates the U.N.’s own Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I hope the U.N. will use its influence and international platform to protect the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”
Right now, representatives of more than 150 Native American tribes, many of them traditional enemies, have joined together at Standing Rock in the largest Native American protest in a century. More than 1,500 people have gathered. Their numbers swell to as many as 10,000 on weekends. Many non-natives, including our musician for today, Dave Taylor, the former minister of this congregation, Rev. Florence Caplow, and delegates from many UU congregations have joined them.
The collective prayers and protest rising from Standing Rock are about environmental justice, about racism and climate change. Their concerns speak to our UU principles, principles that call us to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every person, to work for justice and to live in balance with the interdependent web of life.
Hear again the words of Julian Brave NoiseCat and Anne Spicer:
At Standing Rock, indigenous people… are envisioning a future without a Dakota Access Pipeline, enacting a future where indigenous nations exercise their rights to define a more just, equal, and sustainable path forward, as stewards of land, water, humanity, and each other.
At Standing Rock, an audacious vision for an indigenous future, handed down from Wounded Knee and global in force, is alive and well. This is how you Ghost Dance in 2016.