Standing fast at Standing Rock: Water defenders throw a wrench into pipeline process

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Indian-led encampments on Standing Rock Sioux territory are digging in for the North Dakota winter. They are determined to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. And they are not alone, as thousands upon thousands join their bold struggle to save planet resources and peoples.

Already they have won a temporary victory from the government to halt the digging, but Dakota Access is moving equipment to tunnel under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. And the Norway-based bank DNB has sold its pipeline assets and may terminate loans.

The construction, which was fast-tracked without a full environmental review and without the knowledge and consent of the Standing Rock Sioux, is planned to carry half a million barrels of oil every day. A spill would poison the water supply and farmlands of the Standing Rock Indian reservation and of 17 million people downriver.

Since April the largest Standing Rock camp (Oceti Sakowin or the Seven Council Fires) has welcomed hundreds of tribes and dozens of delegations including the Two Spirit (LGBTQ) delegation and Labor for Standing Rock. At times the camp swells to over 7,000 people dedicated to halting the pipeline construction.

Youth and women lead — world responds. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers first approved the Dakota Access pipeline in August, Native youth initiated a national call for help and organized a relay race along the pipeline trying to stop construction.

The leading role of Native women is also noteworthy. Three Native grandmothers are in charge of Red Warrior camp. Women coordinate feeding thousands and providing medical care, even a school. Young Native women are on the front lines of civil disobedience and are posting video reports online.

Worldwide support is growing, from tribes in the Amazon to the Sami people of Norway and to indigenous New Zealanders — each has sent delegations to the camp. Standing Rock is sparking increased resistance to fossil fuels across the U.S. and globally.

Carpenters, nurses, teachers and other workers are streaming into the Labor Camp and union locals across the U.S. are sending thousands of dollars, declaring “Without water there are no jobs.” Rank-and-file union members are outraged at AFL-CIO President Trumka’s support for the pipeline and demand he reverse his position.

In solidarity, 200 workers from 25 unions shut down Wells Fargo & Citibank (which finance the pipeline) on Nov. 10 in Oakland, Ca. Included were National Nurses United, SEIU, Alameda Labor Council, CWA, Oakland Education Association and many more.

Racist history repeats itself. Much like the early U.S. cavalry slaughtering Indians to facilitate the rise of capitalism and private property in North America, sheriffs and private security forces are now protecting pipeline companies as they bulldoze through Native lands. The resistance of those gathered by the Cannonball River has been met with a violent law enforcement crackdown and hundreds of arrests.

Private security mercenaries and cops use attack dogs (flashback to attacks on Blacks in the ‘60s), drones, choppers, rubber bullets, sound cannons, and pepper spray to intimidate and spy on demonstrators. Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II and several Native women leaders have been arrested and strip searched for “rioting.” Deputized sheriffs and National Guard troops from seven states, with tanks and riot gear, confront water protectors at every turn.

Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners uses “eminent domain” to seize private farmland in Iowa. Builders blatantly demolished Indian artifact sites just one day after locations were revealed in a legal document.

Why the crackdown? Native nations organizing in unison with environmentalists, labor groups, ranchers, and millions of rural and urban supporters, is a serious threat to capitalists who make their fortunes investing in fossil fuels. They want this resistance silenced.

Water protectors and tribal leaders are using creative direct action and lawsuits to stop the pipeline, from canoe journeys down the Missouri, to growing international actions.

But these non-violent tactics have not stopped the attacks. The protesters have the right to defend themselves as they defend Mother Earth.

A turning point. Saving the water and land from poisoning is not just a cultural-spiritual effort, but a class warfare battle between the haves and have-nots, and it is worldwide.

Standing Rock is the largest gathering of Native nations in 150 years. It could well be the tipping point in a long, multi-pronged battle, if fought by people committed to the replacement of capitalism by a system of planet-friendly production to satisfy human needs. Where the wealth that is created by all is to be shared by all. To help, visit

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Also see: Report from the front lines

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