Across Facebook, at least across the Facebook silo in which I have my online being, walls and threads are thick with statements of solidarity with the Lakota nation and their allies. The peaceful opposition to the North Dakota Access Pipeline has caught the imagination of people across the world. Indigenous peoples from South America and as far afield as New Zealand have travelled to express their support.
In Europe the support we can give (we being mostly, but far from exclusively, white) that is of most practical use is to spread the word and donate money to bona fide sites. You can find some of them here.
In the U.S. however, it is feasible for white people to go in person to the camps. A moving account of one such visit was published by The Huffington Post . The author, Katie Scarlett Brandt, says at one point “At Standing Rock, it didn’t matter that I was a white person. It mattered that I went.” Brandt gives a sympathetic account of the issues including the fundamental matter of Treaty Rights which are being systematically violated.
Unfortunately, accounts are emerging of white people going to Standing Rock with what seems to be zero sensitivity to the nature of this protest and the culture of the Indigenous peoples involved. This is a protest of prayer arising out of the wisdom of tribal elders. It is not a festival. Here is one description of behaviour witnessed from apiece entitled The Unbearable Whiteness of Being at Standing Rock:
“A camp came in the other day set up a dome played bass music at night with light poi spinners…!! Aah. I was on the other side of the river. Menfolk started hollering…”We’re in PRAYER over here! “It took almost 30 minutes for them to shut down. Huge fire when we have to conserve wood to keep warm and for lodges.”
Such behaviour is cultural imperialism pure and simple. It assumes white privilege to impose white culture on people who at this very moment (let alone their ancestors) are suffering repression at the hands of the military industrial power that currently dominates America. Unfortunately people who do these things are often not aware of the political issues. This does not make it any better.
The article goes on to list things that white allies can do that are positive, among them, and importantly, not allowing the story of white ally bad behaviour to take attention away from the First Nations people who are at the centre of this struggle. Please read it.
Have a look at this if you are in America and are able to go (but think carefully before you do): http://www.standingrocksolidaritynetwork.org/resource-packet.html?link_id=5&can_id=e78a16df3dcd5d0dc4769bbb132058af&source=email-answering-the-call-to-action-for-standing-rock-solidarity&email_referrer=answering-the-call-to-action-for-standing-rock-solidarity&email_subject=answering-the-call-to-action-for-standing-rock-solidarity
For those of us far away across the Atlantic, who can only watch and pray (which, let it be remembered, the tribal elders there are asking us to do) let’s remember this: “Standing Rock is where your feet are. Everyone drinks water. All land is sacred.” (Source here)
Standing Rock is important. We need to give it attention. But our task is here.