5 things every non-native needs to consider before visiting Standing Rock
1. Behave as an ally.
You’re there to do service for the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as they protect their water and lives from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). They are not there to be your hosts, cultural guides, tourist attractions, misery porn, or to bolster your career, or to help you earn “street cred” in the activist community.
We are not helpless, downtrodden, Native Americans that need a (white) savior to rescue us. There are roughly 280 Native Nations and 4,000 people at the camps. We need allies, not patronizing people with a God complex who drown out our voices by further colonizing our spaces. Assist the people of Standing Rock in whatever manner they ask of you.
2. Understand the historical context of the DAPL, and respect the need for Native autonomy, space, and spirituality.
While the DAPL and resource extraction affects all living beings, it has an especially devastating impact on Native People. Genocide has not just literally killed many of us, but it has also culturally and spiritually decimated us. The majority of Indigenous People in the U.S., as well as Canada, are unable to speak our languages due to the government created and forced use of boarding and residential schools. Our religious practices weren’t fully protected by law until 1993. The theft of our lands and languages also contributed to the loss of our spirituality. Many of our ceremonies are connected to our lands and are conducted in our languages.
We also face devastatingly high rates of violence. According to the Lakota People’s Law Project, Native People are the racial group most likely to be murdered by law enforcement. Native Youth represent only 1% of the total U.S. population, but are 70% of the total Federal Bureau of Prisons population. The National Institute of Justice found that more than four in five (84.3%) Native Women have experienced violence in their lifetime. Ninety-six percent of the men that raped Native Women were non-Native men. Resource extraction brings more non-Natives onto our lands and, with them, more violence.
Due to 526 years of genocide, colonialism, and the many other “-isms” that are a by-product of colonialism, Native and Indigenous communities suffer from historical and intergenerational trauma. Native People need the physical and emotional space at the camps, as well as in our daily lives, to process the pain and outrage that comes from the continual genocide that we face.
3. Follow the instructions of tribal leadership and Native People.
How you behave impacts the manner in which non-Native people treat tribal communities, particularly in the midst of such a public fight. You’re a guest on what remains of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s land. More precisely, every day that you’re in the U.S. you’re on land that once belonged to Native People. Follow the lead of the tribal government, spiritual leadership, and the Native People at the camps — Sacred Stone, Red Warrior, and Oceti Sakowin. Regardless of how well-intentioned you may be, once you pack up and leave, the local tribal Nations and their people are the ones that will suffer the repercussions of your actions.
Also note that the camps at Standing Rock are not protest sites, but were created and run by Water Protectors. They are also weapon, violence, alcohol, and drug free. And, under no circumstances is it acceptable to photograph or record ceremonies or prayers. These are sacred and we expect others to respect that. Be aware that people may be praying or conducting ceremony in a way that doesn’t meet the Hollywood created image that comes to the minds of many non-Natives in America.
4. If you’re here to protect the water, you need to be willing to risk lawsuit.
Though the camps are all peaceful, that doesn’t mean that the U.S. government or the oil companies are practicing nonviolence. As the world has seen, the U.S. government and Energy Transfer Partners L.P. (the company that owns the Dakota Access L.C. subsidiary that’s building the DAPL) have unleashed a full scale militarization of the area through the use of drones, helicopters, the National Guard, and militarized police. On September 3, mercenaries for hire from the notorious G4S company unleashed dogs and pepper spray on Native Women, young girls, and even horses. North Dakota Governor Dalrymple activated the National Guard on September 8th to “assist” in security at the Water Protection sites. Both Amy Goodman and Jill Stein have had arrest warrants issued for being at the sites. Between the 13th and 14th,31 people total were arrested at the Standing Rock DAPL construction site by police that descended on the area in full riot gear with semi-automatic weapons.
Be aware of the potential outcomes. Going to the camps, especially the front lines, could lead to arrest or litigation against you by Energy Transfer Partners. The Standing Rock Sioux Nation has a legal team on the ground to assist people, but they’re up against the government and the multiple-billion dollar oil business. If you can’t risk arrest or lawsuit, then it’s probably best not to go.
5. Take supplies for yourself, those that travel with you, and for the camps.
On August 22nd the North Dakota homeland security Greg Wilz shut off the water for the Water Protectors. That means all visitors and Water Protectors need to bring plenty of water for themselves and for others at the camps. Bring plenty of food, medical supplies, receptacles to remove your trash when you leave (the tribe is fined every day that garbage is left behind), camping gear, and winter supplies for yourself and the camps. It’s September in North Dakota. It’s getting colder every day and the Water Protectors aren’t leaving. You, as well as them, need warm clothing and supplies. If you go Standing Rock, be as self-sufficient and ecologically sustainable as possible.
Electricity is scarce so take as many solar chargers as possible. Cell connectivity at the camps is also rare. There’s a casino about 10 miles away from the construction site. The nearest airports to Cannon Ball, North Dakota are in Bizmarck, Rapid City, and the Twin Cities. Due to the Morton County Sheriff’s highway shut down, Protectors have to take the long route to the camps. It’s best to follow the directions on the Sacred Stone page or that of the other camps.
If after reading this, you’ve realized that going to Standing Rock isn’t for you, but you’d still like to help, there are numerous ways to stand with the people of Standing Rock.
1. Divest from your large banking institutions that support the DAPL and resource extraction.
2. Show material solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, Sacred Stone, and the Red Warrior Camp
3. Call, email, and social media blast your Congressional Representatives, Senators, President Obama, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Morton County Sheriff’s office, and North Dakota Governor Dalrymple’s office to bring an end to the entire DAPL, as well as eminent domain and the Nationwide Permit 12 — all of which are responsible for the DAPL going forth without tribal, community, or EPA consultation or studies.
4. Become involved in your local #NoDAPL groups and organizations fighting to bring an end to resource extraction.
5. Last, but not least, stand as an ally for Indigenous People in all our of our battles.