Indigenous women of Standing Rock issue heartbreaking plea for help ahead of evacuation

By Claire Lampen
February 21, 2017

With just over a day to go before the evacuation deadline arrives at North Dakota's Oceti Sakowin camp, protesters at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation have issued a plea: Come help — now.

In a viral video shared by social justice journalist Shaun King on Monday, a group of indigenous women remind viewers that demonstrations against the Dakota Access pipeline are about much more than a single issue. They're about clean water, police brutality, treaty rights and the rights of future generations.

"In the history of colonization, they've always given us two options: Give up our land or go to jail. Give up our rights or go to jail," one woman says in the video. "And now, give up our water or go to jail. We are not criminals."

Monthslong demonstrations at Standing Rock are scheduled to end Wednesday; the United States Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum have issued an evacuation order for the morning of Feb. 22, according to the official website for the Oceti Sakowin camp.

Peaceful protesters gathered there seemed to score a victory in early December, when the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit that would have allowed construction of the Dakota Access pipeline to continue along its previously planned route, under Lake Oahe. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opposed the pipeline on the grounds that it threatened ancient tribal lands and could pollute a crucial water source, the Missouri River.

Fireworks over Oceti Sakowin on Dec. 4, 2016 as demonstrators celebrate the decision to effectively halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Yet the companies funding DAPL construction, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, immediately vowed they would not back down. Many Standing Rock demonstrators, meanwhile, were skeptical of the decision to halt the project and decided to stay, even as blizzards battered Oceti Sakowin camp.

The skepticism was warranted: Within his first week in office, President Donald Trump — formerly a shareholder in Energy Transfer Partners — signed two executive orders enabling resumed construction of both DAPL and the Keystone XL pipeline. According to King's tweet, protesters are currently "surrounded by militarized police" who will enter the camp Wednesday and evacuate protesters.

The women in the video urge supporters to come stand with Standing Rock, and fast.

Here are several sketches -- interviews done in the course of recent demonstrations -- from my new series, "Profiles of Protest in the Trump Resistance Era" for WBAI radio / Pacifica.

Rally at Brooklyn Boro Hall culminating general strike of Yemeni bodega owners, which shut down many small stores in the Atlantic Avenue area of Brooklyn on February 2, 2017.

14 minutes. Mitchel Cohen reports from a protest of more than 1,000 people who marched on Senator Charles Schumer's apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Tuesday night, condemning Schumer's votes in favor of 3 of Trump's cabinet appointments, and demanding that Sen. Schumer and other Democrats "join the resistance" and stop placating the Trump administration and Wall Street.

12 minutes - Participants in the "No Hate, No Fear, Refugees are Welcome Here!" rally and march of 18,000 people in New York City Sunday, January 29, 2017, beginning in Battery Park.

3:24 minutes - A wonderful 3 minute piece interviewing a couple of 90-year-olds at the women's march in NYC.

This one sketches 3 women at the gigantic Women's march on January 21, 2017. Just 1:24 minutes ....

From the streets of NYC's inauguration night protest, as thousands marched from Foley Square down to Trump's building on Wall Street.

Immigrant Rights Rally in Washington Square Park Jan. 25, 2017, with 3,000 people participating.

Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in. 
~ Leonard Cohen