“Mni Wiconi” — in English, “water is life” — has become the slogan for the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline that is being constructed in North Dakota — on tribal lands, I might add.  Both the project and the protest have received little attention from mainstream media, so I’ll provide some brief background information:  The pipeline was approved in July and will span more than 1,000 miles, carrying crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. 

Here’s one of the many problems with this pipeline: If it were to rupture, the environmental impact would heavily affect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, where the pipeline is being built just outside their reservation. Additionally, the pipeline crosses hundreds of bodies of water in both North and South Dakota, according to an injunction filed by the Standing Rock Sioux against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

On top of the potential — and likely, according to several environmentalists — rupture of this pipeline and the severe effect it could have on the Standing Rock Sioux, the construction of the pipeline threatens to destroy countless sacred sites. Bulldozers already plowed through a sacred burial ground in early September.  

The abuse of American Indians peoples on this continent is nothing new. Actually I would argue that abusing American Indians is the United State’s favorite pastime, as it is 2016 and they are still fighting for their rights. Protectors — excuse me, “protesters” —  have been pepper sprayed, arrested and bitten by dogs.  Those among the bitten included a child and a pregnant woman.  

The protesters were unarmed and the security company is yet to be held accountable for attacking peaceful protestors. The United States prides itself on protecting freedom of speech and assembly, but hypocritically, the rhetoric does not apply if you’re an American Indian. As a response to this clear violation of past treaties and tribal sovereignty, more than 100 tribes have gathered at the construction site, with many claiming this to be the largest tribal gathering and protest in U.S. history. 

 Despite the arrests, dog attacks, pepper spray and even visits by political figures such as Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, mainstream media has ultimately been silent. This is no surprise, given the content of our history books. American Indian history was swept aside long ago to make way for the “heroic” White Man and his conquest of the wild land.  Pioneers, pilgrims, cowboys — all heroes to the young, white kids who paint turkeys and wear little crayon-colored paper feathers, who get the sanitized version of what happened.  

Newsflash: Thanksgiving is a lie, heroic cowboys are a lie and the true founding fathers are not named Washington or Jefferson, — they are named Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Hiawatha and Tecumseh. The danger in erasing an entire people’s culture, history and identity is evident in U.S. society and a little closer to home than you would think — Elon University.  

White girls who dress up as Pocahontas for Halloween. Dream catchers hanging from rearview mirrors as decoration.  “Cowboy and Indian” themed parties that are grossly inappropriate and make light of past atrocities, wounds that have not quite healed. Everyone wants to be an Indian until it’s time to be an Indian. 

I will change my tone here, because yelling and berating people will not help the Standing Rock Sioux in their struggle for sovereignty, respect and survival. I mentioned before how mainstream media has left this quagmire of a political situation alone, for the most part, but MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell made a very poignant statement about the founding of this country: “When we finally stopped actively killing American Indians for the crime of living here before us, we then proceeded to violate every treaty we made with the tribes. Every single
treaty.”

I understand that there are much bigger issues going on in this country than cultural
appropriation. 

But I ask that if you want to wear moccasins, hang dream catchers in your rooms and your cars and dress as an “Indian Princess,” you at least stand with Native peoples as they battle to protect and preserve our land and culture — a fight that has persisted for centuries. 

Educate yourself about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the potential impact that it could have on the environment. The people of the Sacred Stone Camp, the main protest camp and the largest gathering of indigenous tribes in recent history, need donations if they are to continue their resistance. 

You can learn more about the camp, needed supplies and recent news regarding the protest at www.sacredstonecamp.org.  

The indigenous people of this land have suffered enough atrocities to last for generations. Stand with American Indians in their time of need. Mni Wiconi.  


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