Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 21, 2017

Standing Rock Water Protectors -- 'A Letter from Camp'


"I only ask of God
That the pain is not indifferent to me,
That the dried death does not encounter me
Empty and alone without having done enough."
            -- Leon Gieco





Let us commence, and joyfully inaugurate on this day our continued fight for freedom, justice, and the liberation of Mother Earth. We write this letter from Standing Rock, where the People called the Spirits, and the Spirits called the People.

We are thankful for our hosts, for their invitation, for the gifts and healing. We are thankful to all those who risked their lives and sacrificed so much here. We are thankful for what we have learned here, and we take the stories with us into the generations forever.

Icy, sub-zero winds howl. The world outside is whited out and we remain surrounded on all sides by the hollow and ever-present lights of DAPL and the unblinking panoramic gaze of their soldiers, snipers, surveillance, and weaponry.  

The winter is our powerful teacher; she shows us our strengths and our weaknesses, forcing us to challenge and accept our mortal limitations. She requires fire and brings us to the hearth and home, this is when we plan. We are tested.  We prove our strength to ourselves through her; we see our resolve, our mental endurance, our physical stamina, our spiritual courage, and our Native Peoples' determination to see this through as Creator Great Spirit commands and directs.

We still go forth unarmed, and we still pray and make our offerings of tobacco, cedar, sage, and corn pollen. We write to say that the water, the people―this mission―are worth every risk, every challenge, and every humiliation, because we love our ways, lands, people, and culture. No amount of water blasted from cannons or propaganda can ever wash away that truth and love or extinguish that flaming fire in our hearts.

Many ask why we are still here. Now that many cameras and actors have "transitioned" out, there is more space for grass-roots voices to be heard, more space to discuss matters that can't be contained on a not-for-profit grant proposal line item, a hashtag, or an NGO campaign.

Some came because they were called, pulled by dreams and visions, and the sounds of horse hoofs pounding on tall grassy earth.  We are here because some of us are interested in true liberation from all forms of racial and political oppression over Indian people and the lands we traditionally use and occupy in this invention called the United States of America and western civilization. On the other hand we are here in Standing Rock simply because there is still much work to complete to finish in a beautiful way.

We are here after dog attacks, chemical agents, military combat tactics, grenades, aerial surveillance, LRADs, MRAP vehicles, inhumane detention, all of which are instruments of war, acts of terror, physical aggression, and psychological warfare. We witnessed the State unleash and bring to bear all of the might of its prison- and military-industrial complex on peaceful, unarmed people. While the people are barely clothed for the winter, the state agents are fully outfitted in riot gear, armed to the teeth with live ammunition.

We have always been here, despite being confined on reservations, within those racialized legal spaces as prisoners of the dominant culture's wars on our people, our ways of life, and our religion. All we have ever really wanted has been to live well and to exist in peace. This is a simple request: let us live; let us live by our laws as free and independent peoples, as we were born to live and as we are meant to live, peacefully and in dignity.

The Indian Wars have never ended in the Dakotas and elsewhere in the lands now called the Americas. We see and understand that political and economic power is war, war by means other than just organized military conflict, in the state of North Dakota and throughout the United States. The State's agents still block the highway to the nearest hospital and criminalize people for just protecting what has always belonged to them: their ancestral lands and waters, while the corporate security officers who released the hell-hounds on defenseless people and the security guard who entered our camp wielding a semi-automatic assault rifle remain free and uncharged, and women like Red Fawn Fallis remain captive, political prisoners in the State of North Dakota's gulag. The Dakotas have come to be called the "Deep North" due to a unique brand of anti-Indian vitriol and racism and it is making itself known and visible.

Our hands have grown accustomed to the powder and ashes of the wars you wage against us, but we have transformed these ashes, mixed with our sweat, blood, and tears, into our spiritual war paint and our cry for life. We as Indian people are all too familiar with death, but we can no longer accept it from those who abuse power.

The colonial system and its deprivations have put us under enormous pressure to be little more than walking dead, not really alive. We are used to living with death all around us. It is on cut and slit wrists; it is at the end of the barrel of countless guns; it is the noose upon which our youth hang, in the bottles from which your border-town liquor businesses profit. The death system resides in the federal sentences, uninvestigated and unprosecuted crimes against Indian people, the missing and murdered Indian women, our stolen children, our stolen land, even our stolen names, genetics, symbols, and knowledge.

Indian Wars that continue to this day do so by means less visible than physical acts of aggression, subtle but nonetheless deadly to our bodies and spirits. Deadly, like the environmental pollution found in radioactive uranium contamination that remains uncontained on Southwestern territories, destruction of water to which there is no end.  We walk on the border lands, between the world of the living and the dead, the old and new, seen and unseen. 

We live in that nightmare. You call it "American Indian Policy"; we call it ongoing genocide. We are here because our people and the earth cannot endure that nightmare any longer.

We have learned from this encounter at Standing Rock that many of your tribe, both young and old, have become disenchanted with their share of the colonial death system, and have begun to look to our ancient systems and ways to move forward as allies. Together we engage in the difficult work of cross-cultural and inter-cultural dialogue towards unification. The camps are not perfect but Indian uprisings are not pre-coordinated tea parties. There have been many mistakes but as the wise say least those mistakes are our own and we can learn from them.

We came to stop a pipeline and protect the water. What we did, in addition to challenging the pipeline's construction, was to begin the rebuilding and rehabilitation of our nations, our laws, our identity, our strength, and our self-worth so that we can live as we were meant to live, as free and independent peoples.

We are witnessing and participating in an Indian Spring, in the renewal of a dream denied to our people, in a glimmer of a peace we once knew. This is the Red Nation, the vision of Tecumseh, of Black Elk, of the Hopi prophecy given by Thomas Banyacya on the house of Mica, and it continues to emerge and unfold.

The splendor of our peoples and nations as we gathered to fight for the water and for ourselves beside the sacred fire is a holy and beautiful sight to behold. In the light and shadows of this sacred illumination, we are healing, and coming to know who we can become. We are learning that we were born to be free and we are learning how to sustain that feeling and to create the conditions of liberating our hearts, bodies, lands, waters, and nations. We learn the ancient stories together by our fire, stories of the prophets and the sources of true power and natural law. We have found that sometimes the hardest front line is the one between ourselves and the mirror.

The dominant powers have all too often denied Indian people, simply, life. The so-called rule of law in the United States has denied us our humanity in court decisions that have codified manifest destiny and race-based rule into a dictatorship specifically intended to oppress, erase, and eliminate us. No other group of people in the United States continues to be the object of such official discrimination through specific laws and national policies.

We announce enough!

We will not consent, or go quietly and disappear into the night of genocide, into our elimination for the sake of manifest destiny. We want to live. We reject the settlement and development of our traditional territories, lands, natural resources, and sacred sites. The sleeping giant is waking. Our collective futures and survival hinges on our ability to come together to slay the monsters that destroy life and devour the earth.

On this inauguration let the world be put on NOTICE.

  • We, the original peoples and nations of the United States, as women possessing inherent and international rights as the clan mothers and keepers of territories, are rehabilitating matriarchal law, systems, and knowledges to sustain sacred waters for the people, both now living and yet to be born.

  • We challenge all forms of governmental oppression including corruption in tribal governments.

  • We are educating, recruiting, and building of intersectional alliances transnationally within and between global movements against racism, sexism, capitalism, totalitarianism, fascism, colonialism, hetero-patriarchal normativity, and ableism.

  • To challenge the impositions of national borders and unite our struggles for liberation to the North and South to build hemispheric alliances and action.

  • To establish and revitalize traditional knowledges, languages, sciences, ecologically sustainable practices, to reassert natural law, and the Rights of Mother Earth.
·         To fortify our movements through global engagements with emergent spaces, art, poetry, technology, science, and science fiction, to nurture a decolonized imaginary and growth mind-set.

·         To where necessary build new forms and systems of governance, finance, banking, economy, law, education, energy, and medicine.

·         We will no longer accept second rate "sovereignty" or other legal doctrines sourced in racialized legal fictions like "domestic dependency," the Doctrine of Discovery, and the invention called western civilization.
  • We refuse to concede another inch of land or sovereignty that colonial courts quietly try to "implicitly divest" from us.
·         We demand the release of all political prisoners including but not limited to Leonard Peltier, Red Fawn Fallis, Machi Francisca Lincolao Huircapan, of the Mapuche People, and Orlando Watley.

·         We demand an end to the repression against the Indian people and the revocation of the racist and repressive laws that threaten their social, economic, political, cultural, spiritual, and territorial integrity.

·         We demand an end to the repression and criminalization of Water Protectors and all human rights defenders.

·         We demand absolute respect for the Indian treaties, waters, lands, and territory.
Standing Rock is everywhere.  If you look hard enough there is a front line between justice and injustice, liberation and oppression near you. Join the resistance and ignite the fires of justice throughout the world!

By the collective authorship of some campers,
along the Cannon Ball River, North Dakota,
United States of America, 21 January 2017


Copyright by authors.
Censored News


silviantonia said...

As a Cuban elder who was there through December 30th, I will post a translation to Spanish of your post, and share it right here. I had to leave because I was too ill to remain, and three weeks later I continue to suffer from the DAPL flu, bronchitis, and sinus infection.

It is a beautiful letter, and I thank those of you who prepared it. / Como anciana cubana que estuve allí hasta el 30 de diciembre, publicaré una traducción al español del artículo carta, y la compartiré aquí. Me tuve que ir porque estaba demasiado enferma para permanecer, y tres semanas después sigo sufriendo los efectos de la gripe, la bronquitis y la sinusitis de DAPL.

Es una carta preciosa, y les doy las gracias a aquellos de ustedes que la prepararon.

Unknown said...

Beautiful!!! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Keep singin...this world needs to hear that song!

Jenny Burnstad said...

This letter written in unity by brave people at the camps of Standing Rock defines what all humans are entitled to everywhere on this precious planet. You peaceful warriors inspire the rest of us. We honor each of you, your strength, and the powerful expression of your collective wisdom. It is my prayer that all the hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrated in support of women, social justice and the survival of Mother Earth on January will realize that the women of Standing Rock epitomize this common global struggle everywhere and that these great numbers of people will soon descend on Standing Rock en masse and prevent the completion of the DAPL.

Unknown said...

Beautiful,sending prayers of strength and protection, love, light and blessings

Unknown said...

Once the last treaty is gone, sold in an out- of-court settlement, you don't think Trump is going to come after those he says "don't look like Indians"? The elders, the only ones who will be paid from that billion dollar out-of-court-Indian-Claims-Commission-settlement, should consider the wisdom of this letter written by the brave people at the camps at Standing Rock because this younger generation knows how the judicial system has been rigged by "The Doctrine of Discovery". As Western Shoshone elder, Carrie Dann says about the Indian Claims Commission, "It was a commission not a court---a panel of white people." The only court of law not rigged by the Doctrine of Discovery is the one in the United Nations. Let this new generation take the Treaty of Fort Laramie there, otherwise, it will never have seen the light of day in a court of law. Let the United Nations decide if white supremacist colonial law trumps the Supreme law of the Land---the treaty. The Indian Claims Commission said, "we took it by discovery but here is some money, the value of the land at the time of taking." Give our children a chance, don't sell their homeland right out from under them.

Unknown said...

This is why tribal councils turn on their own people.

waterislife said...

In the words of Madonna at the women's march:
"There is power in our unity & no opposing force stands a chance in the face of true solidarity.
And to our detractors that insist this March will never add up to anything, f___you. F___ you."

Unknown said...

The PBS News report was about the government in 1980 offering the The Great Sioux Nation $102 million for their homeland which has since grown to $1.3 billion dollars. Mother earth is also life. Madonna was also speaking,though she may not have known it, to unborn generations.

Unknown said...

Holding ceremony and sending prayers

Unknown said...

To All the People's i stand in Solidarity with All Water Protectors across our Morher The Earth M'niWiconi ❤