Bearing witness to the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict

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“Ye are my witnesses” –Isaiah 43:10

Let’s get something straight, America is not the police officers shooting bean bags, spraying mace and locking up protestors in North Dakota.

The protestors are America.

The police officers I choose to defend are not the ones who justify these horrendous and inexcusable actions as part of their job—because these things are not in their job description. Their job is to defend and protect citizens of America. Last time I checked, peaceful protesting is supposed to have a casualty and injury count of zero.

Along with this, from the perspective of Standing Rock, we need to look at the laws that have been put in place for the sole purpose of protecting this land and the cultures at stake. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you an excerpt of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA):

“Section 106…requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties, and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment…districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects listed in the National Register are considered; unlisted properties are evaluated against the National Park Service’s published criteria, in consultation with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office and any Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization that may attach religious or cultural importance to them.”

Protestor on Calhoun St. (Photo courtesy of KimberMarie Faircloth)
Protestor on Calhoun St. (Photo courtesy of KimberMarie Faircloth)

There have been many attempts from the Historic Preservation and Archaeological sectors of society to try and reclaim as well as preserve the culture surrounding Native Americans. Just because one person looks at the Earth as nothing but industrial fuel and material should not negate the views of one who looks at the Earth as a living, sacred, breathing thing. These laws were created to protect that which the Native Americans hold as sacred and essential, which also happens to be the things that many of us take for granted.

We only get one Earth. And unfortunately, those who find happiness in all nature has to offer are forced to settle with whatever the rest of the world sets aside for preservation and recreation. Entire groups of people only get the leftovers of something they love and live for.

Over 80 percent of the US’ total energy comes from fossil fuels. We know that they will run out eventually, and already have to some degree. We know that it is better all around to begin using more sustainable options. We know that we are responsible for the majority of natural depletion on this earth. If we know all of this to be true, riddle me this: why do we need the Dakota Access Pipeline?

It is a pipeline that will continue to perpetuate and encourage our dependence on oil. It is a pipeline that has already caused so much heartbreak, anger and unneeded violence. It is a pipeline that threatens a natural resource serving hundreds of thousands of people. I am not sure why taking care of this world has been made to seem like a hassle or a bad thing. So let me set the record straight once and for all: taking care of this Earth is not just a job for hippies, tree-huggers, vegans, Native Americans or however you would like to categorize all those who actively take responsibility for humankind’s choices. This is every person’s problem and it is about damn time we all stood up to the plate and took responsibility for our actions and our impacts.

Those who are impacted the most: Native Americans. Since I was a little girl, I have always had a separate curiosity and fondness for Native American history and culture. No, I am not an expert nor even a buff. But I do care about them. That curiosity was heightened when I heard two years ago that my great-grandmother was Cherokee; something I am desperately trying to find more about now. For too long, their voices have not been heard. They have been screaming, crying, suffering and dying for centuries amongst the trees, land and skies they hold sacred and love so dearly—and those things are the only ones to listen to them. Until now.

It has been historically repetitive that when you infuriate a group of people long enough, they will revolt.

They will fight.

They will win.

Loss after loss, the odds slowly become in their favor. I am talking to you, Corporate America; the ones who laugh at the recycling bins and scoff at the efforts of those who genuinely love and care for the Earth. When you order people to be put in cages and then rattle them, you are oft to getting bit. The Standing Rock tribe is not alone, and I offer my dearest apologies for giving attention to such an important event so late in the game. However, I stand with them now and am not moving, as are the hundreds of thousands of people across the globe who stand with Standing Rock.

You do not put people in cages, for you give them no option but to break-free.

You do not subdue and assimilate people, for you give them no option but to fight the bigoted social constraints being forced upon them.

You do not simply sweep the tragic history of a people under the rug and expect them to comply forever and amen.

If you have any moral compass, any empathy towards the forgotten, the scapegoats, the assimilated and the victims of cultural discrimination and genocide, I urge you to stand with Standing Rock now. Because this is not just about land or pipelines, this is about letting minorities know that there are people out there who hear them, who feel for them and want to help. This is not just about the Native Americans. But about every person who has felt discriminated, every culture that has been forced to assimilate, every heritage that has faced the onslaught that is prejudice and hate.

Bear witness and do more.

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