Native American Moms Take a Stand Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

BY ON September 15, 2016

Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters

Moms are protective, and want a fair shake for everyone’s children. (Tweet this) The events unfolding in North Dakota at the pipeline protest are harrowing and heartbreaking. The violent images of attacks on protesters by security dogs (a young child bitten!) and pepper spray, are in sharp contrast to the peaceful gatherings of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe – parents and children in makeshift camps – praying to protect land, water and culture against the oil industry.

This 1,172-mile pipeline, approved in July, is slated to carry crude oil from North Dakota to southern Illinois. The Dakota Access Pipeline will snake under the Missouri River, the main water source for the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Along with the environmental damage, the pipeline poses a threat to native culture.

“Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe see the pipeline as a major environmental and cultural threat. They say its route traverses ancestral lands — which are not part of the reservation — where their forebears hunted, fished and were buried. They say historical and cultural reviews of the land where the pipeline will be buried were inadequate.” ~ Jack Healy, New York Times

On Friday, the federal government temporarily blocked construction and halted work on part of the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Construction of the pipeline continues at other area sites.

For native parents, the right to have a say in decisions that impact the health of their families, sacred lands, and cultural preservation is paramount. They believe that respecting and protecting these rights requires tribal consultation prior to decisions that puts health and the environment in jeopardy.

For Jessie Weahkee, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who traveled 17 hours to deliver a truck full of donations to the protesters, – “kids, elders, lawyers, laid-back hippies, and representatives of several Native American tribes” – living at the protest camp, Camp of Sacred Stonesaid for her it was more than opposing an oil pipeline:

“It’s about our rights as native people to this land. It’s about our rights to worship. It’s about our rights to be able to call a place home, and it’s our rights to water.”

Shaina Oliver and Loni Russell.

Shaina Oliver and Loni Russell.

Moms Clean Air Force supermom, Shaina Oliver, a member of the Dinè/Navajo tribe, and a mother of four, says this is personal because the Dakota Access Pipeline doesn’t take into consideration science in regards to its destruction of the environment. Her concern for safe water and clean air echoes why the pipeline protests have become one of the largest gatherings of indigenous people in American history:

“And this issue should be personal for every living thing in the world not just me as a mom. Water has become scarce for the living, and the world and our communities are struggling to keep water safe ever since the destruction of colonization. And this has always been personal to the indigenous communities around the world. Without clean water how can we sustain clean air?”

When asked what Shaina’s hopes and dreams for protecting sacred lands for children and the future generations are, she says,

“My hopes and dreams for protecting sacred lands are for everyone to acknowledge that Water, Air, Earth, and Fire are all sacred. And without those elements we would not exist, and by not honoring those elements we don’t acknowledge our self as sacred beings.”

Moms Clean Air Force blogger, Lisa Sharp is a member of the Choctaw Nation. In her recent post, Protect Native American Children from Oil and Gas Development, Lisa summed up why the protests against the pipeline are so important to parents,

“Native American children, with their still developing bodies, are most susceptible to the contaminates from drilling and mining on native lands. Giving protection to native lands not only helps secure our rich history, it protects the environment for future generations.”

Photo via Sacred Stone Camp Facebook

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TOPICS: Activism, Social Justice