'We Are Here To Stand': The Work Continues at Standing Rock

A medic at Oceti Sakowin Camp
A medic at Oceti Sakowin Camp | Photo: Avery White, some rights reserved

[On January 24, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order clearing the way for the Dakota Access Pipeline to proceed through lands held as sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux, reigniting a conflict that has roiled for many months. He also signed an E.O. that same day reviving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. We asked Southern California Native activist Nicholas Hummingbird, a veteran of the Standing Rock movement, for his thoughts on Trump’s actions and what they mean for the future of the movement.]

Commentary: We are at a point where much is at stake, stemming from a political nightmare we awaken to everyday since the inauguration. But there are moments such as Standing Rock’s stand for justice that give glimpses of hope and the best of humanity.

One of the first of many Executive Orders signed by someone who set out to divide a nation along rifts that run as deep as the very founding of this country, has sparked into a movement that brings us together against tyranny and hate. Unity and peace are themes long held by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline funded by banks and billionaires at the expense of the people, land, water, and future. This is a grassroots movement, fueled by prayer and peaceful protest, that takes a stand against a history that this country rarely recognizes.

That injustice continues to this day within all tribal communities and people. It was not only profound but powerful when we all came together to support the Standing Rock Sioux in saying “enough is enough,” and doing it in a way that is the complete opposite of the violence has been done to our people for hundreds of years. This is the movement taken on by our younger generation -- and, importantly, our women -- in standing up for our past and our future.

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Tuesday, January 24 was the first contribution by the new Trump administration to a long-standing genocide against indigenous people, ushering in the resurgence of DAPL and the once-defeated KeyStone XL Pipeline, and initiating the disregard for the environment in the last gasps of a dying industry bereft of never ending natural resources. It’s no coincidence that we were attacked first, along with the environment; it’s been happening for well over 500 years.

Standing Rock’s stand is not over, nor will it be. It has become a huge movement that is inspiring Indigenous resistance all over the United States and the rest of the world. In the continued opposition at Mauna Kea and Oak Flat, resistance to the border wall and to the fracking of the Santa Barbara coast, we can see what this movement has embodied and how it has grown. We can now see what happens when we come together -- not just indigenous peoples but all people from all backgrounds. We can now see that there’s a generation, foretold as the Seventh Generation, that will fight to restore the balance of good in the world against that would destroy us and those to come in the future.

What we have to fight for is the next seven generations. This is a test to all those who care for the environment and the prospects of a future we are quickly losing each and everyday. What the signing of that Executive Order accomplished was a mobilization of the people, who can no longer stay neutral but are now forced to pick a side and make a stand.

The United States has long been at war with the First People, whose only crime was to be living here upon the arrival of “immigrants” looking for new opportunity escaping from fear and oppression. We shared this land with them, only to have the fear and oppression they were escaping embodied by them and done unto us. Adversity and perseverance has made us stronger, but we continue to be loving and protective of all life. This is what Standing Rock represents, this is what Standing Rock is. Standing Rock has been happening for well over 500 years all over the “Americas”; it didn't end with the signing of an Executive Order to finish the pipeline foretold as the black snake.

What is happening is the next chapter in a long book of resistance and survival. We will not stand down. In the richest country in the history of the world it is written that people can be exploited and held as second class citizens, that people are expendable; that is quickly becoming reality for all people in America, not just indigenous people. We stand in solidarity with all people and know we have been through it all before with our African American brothers and sisters.

Simply put: we are here to stand. Wherever there is hope people will gain from it. Wherever there is inspiration people will be lifted by it. Wherever there is injustice people must answer the call to confront it. Standing Rock has defended these principles of what humanity is, and continues to do so: will you support them? Will you support the same struggles faced by indigenous people in your community? Will you defend your children? We will all be held accountable for what we didn't do in the face of continued adversity.

As an individual I constantly pray for hope. I constantly pray for the ability to do the best I can with the time that I have, for all we own in this world is what we do. At any moment on any day, we can choose to learn and do what is right. We will live on when we are gone in what our children learned from us by example. That legacy of hope and inspiration heals the world from the greed and selfishness that masks what it is to be a human being connected to and part of natural life.

There are many battles being fought right now: Standing Rock serves as a flame now burning brightly, now dimming, waiting for the people to come back to it and give back the fire within our hearts so that it will burn brightly once more. We must continue the resistance movements that will force this country to accept the will of the people, finally and ultimately surrendering the principle of profit over humanity, profit over the mother earth and, most importantly, Life.

Do not despair: we have been here before. The consequences are now much more dire, but we can prevail when it no longer is “you” and “me,” but “we.”

Banner: "Camp Palestine" at Oceti Sakowin Camp. Photo: Paul and Cathy, some rights reserved

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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