This Native American Heritage Month, let’s stand with indigenous people against DAPL

As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month this November, I think it is critical that we uplift the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline being led by the Standing Rock Sioux.This movement has put indigenous issues within top-tier news headlines in a way that has never happened before. In April of this year the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp was launched in resistance to the pipeline, which if built would carry 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day and cost an estimated $3.7 billion. Since then, the small spiritual camp has expanded into several camps reaching up to 4,000 people who call themselves “water protectors.”

While the media has focused on White celebrities speaking out against the pipeline and Facebook trends related to the cause, indigenous activists leading this movement have made it clear how they wish us to understand their demands: while this struggle is about a pipeline,  “water protecters” on the ground want us to know that it is first and foremost about indigenous people’s access to land and safety, that this movement is important because indigenous people’s lives matter, not just because “this pipeline affects us all.”

We must also recognize who is taking the lead in this struggle. Indigenous women and girls like Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer and Bobbi Jean Three Legs – who started a petition against the pipeline with the Standing Rock Youth – are on the front lines fighting this project and violence against land and water defenders globally. Women like them are also reinforcing the belief that the fight happening at Standing Rock is not solely about this one instance of oppression of indigenous people, but is “the next step of an Indigenous rights movement that has been building in this country for decades and generations,” according to Emily Arasim and Osprey Orielle Lake.

standingrockStanding with indigenous people also means knowing the history of violence that they have faced. For instance, in this image, we see the way the people from whom the Standing Rock Sioux are descended were forced onto a reservation, then had that land reduced over time through broken treaties. This historical context makes the importance of solidarity between people of color even more important. Black Lives Matter activists from around the country and Canada have traveled to Standing Rock, while their national chapter released a statement explaining their solidarity, proclaiming “that there is no Black liberation without Indigenous sovereignty.” Native Hawaiians protectors have also joined water protectors on the front lines and released a statement, connecting the movement against the pipeline with their own struggles against the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea, which is sacred land. It is important that we follow these examples and hold ourselves accountable to showing up for indigenous people.

Header photo courtesy of Emily Arasim via Ecowatch.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South. She holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Sociology from Georgia State University, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from her alma mater. She is a member on the board of directors of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, and is a former content creator for the The Body Is Not An Apology. As a femme, feminist, and queer Black woman, it is through her lived experiences and complex identities that Quita has come to believe in the power of storytelling and the validation of lived experiences.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South.

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