Today is Thanksgiving, a day on which we remember an almost entirely fictional encounter between the settler-colonists in Massachusetts and the local Wampanoag people. While the details of the Thanksgiving story are largely mythical, it is true that the settler-colonists would have died without the aid of the Wampagoag in those first few years. If we go to the heart of the story we’re remembering a moment where Native people helped non-Native people survive.
Now it’s our turn.
You’ve probably heard about the Water Protectors in North Dakota, trying with all their might and main to stop an oil pipeline crossing the Oglala Aquifier and going beneath the Missouri River. Millions of people downriver of the crossing depend on the Missouri for their drinking water - the Lakota at Standing Rock reservation would be the first and most drastically hit. The protectors have a phrase: Mni Wiconi - Water is Life. They are standing between the company and the river for all of us.
There are thousands gathered at the three camps that make up the Water Protector presence. Local law enforcement has violently tried to disperse the camps - they have attacked Protectors with rubber bullets, sound canons, concussion grenades, and high-pressure hoses. The Water Protectors have done nothing wrong. The land on which the pipeline is to be built belongs to them - the Supreme Court upheld it as such in 1980 when it agreed with the Lakota that the U.S. government had broken the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which promised the Oceti Sakowin (the seven council fires of the Lakota) the Black Hills region forever.
On Sunday night, after dark, when temperatures were at 27F, local law enforcement attacked one of the camps. A concussion grenade exploded on one female protector’s arm - she was flown to Minneapolis, and it looks like her arm may have to be amputated. An elder went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated by camp healers. 26 people were injured badly enough to be taken to hospital. Many hundreds more were hurt.
Local law enforcement is knowingly risking killing people. You don’t spray people with high pressure water hoses when the temperature is below freezing because you want them to back off; you do it because you want to cause hypothermia. Amnesty International has decried the attack as an attack on human rights, and has appealed to local law enforcement to stop these tactics. The United Nations has condemned what’s going on. Oh, and Protectors are being arrested for “rioting.” Mmmhmm.
Once again, Native people stand between non-Native people and catastrophe, and this time we have to do more than be passively grateful. This Thanksgiving, could you pass the hat at your dinner table for money to send directly to the camps? If you raise $5, and everyone did it, that would be an enormous influx of resources. Those resources would enable camp leaders to buy the supplies that are most needed - medical equipment (local law enforcement road blocks make getting anyone out of the camps by ambulance very tricky); below-zero-grade sleeping bags; camp heaters; winter-ready tents etc., as well as provide legal counsel to those who have been arrested.
You can donate here:
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
PO Box D
North Standing Rock Avenue
Fort Yates, ND 58538
sorry if i sound bitter or ignorant but as a south asian i really get irritated when native americans are referred to as "indian american", i just feel like it sounds outdated. the only reason they're called that is because in the past they assumed any brown person was indian. that gets to me, i'm not indian but my brown skin makes everyone assume... :/