By Erich Longie

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters along the Cannonball River in North Dakota. (No Dakota Access in Treaty Territory – Camp of the Sacred Stones / Facebook)

Editor’s note: The federal government has approved a new pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), after seven years of protests stopped the Keystone XL oil pipeline from being built across a large part of the United States. The $3.8 billion DAPL project is designed to transport crude oil over 1,100 miles, starting in the Bakken/Three Forks area of North Dakota and traveling through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is leading a protest of Native Americans and their allies against the construction of DAPL, which could contaminate the Missouri River and lead to other devastating environmental impacts.

Opposition to DAPL has intensified since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its approval July 26. Over this past weekend, more than 15 people were arrested, including Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault.

The Standing Rock Sioux have requested a preliminary injunction to halt construction, and the injunction hearing is scheduled for federal court in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 24. Dakota Access filed a lawsuit against the protesters in federal court Monday. Developers halted construction of the DAPL pipeline Tuesday, and law enforcement and tribal leaders met to discuss a peaceful resolution to the protest. Construction is expected to resume.


Hau mitakuyepi. (Hello, my relatives.) On this beautiful day, my prayers are for my relatives at Standing Rock, N.D. They are fighting for their way of life—fighting for their very existence—for if the DAPL black snake is built, it will destroy their source of mni (water).

On Saturday, I traveled to Standing Rock to support our relatives. I left with the belief that their fight is our fight—we being Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires), or seven bands of the Sioux. This fight is North Dakota’s fight. It is this country’s fight. Indeed, it is the entire world’s fight.

Our protest against the destruction of Ina Maka (Mother Earth) started when the first European set foot on Turtle Island [North America] over 400 years ago. We Dakota believe we are related to everything in the universe. We say Mitákuye Oyás’in. The phrase translates in English as “all my relatives,” “we are all related” or “all my relations.” It is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys. We respect all living creatures, especially Mother Earth. Why would we destroy our own mother who feeds us, who provides us shelter, who embraces the remains of our ancestors?

The DAPL opposition message is clear: Stop the pipeline. (Erich Longie / Facebook)

The fight against DAPL is not just to protect the water for future generations, but to protect our sacred sites that are in the path of the pipeline. Waste Win Young, the tribal historical preservation officer for Standing Rock and one of the DAPL protest leaders, argued that the public service commissions should not approve it, but they did so anyway. She was the first protester. That’s where the protest against DAPL started, right there at the public service commission hearings.

The Standing Rock protest didn’t start until the Army Corps of Engineers approved the project. Standing Rock leaders and tribal historic preservation officers from many different tribes met several times with Army Corps officials, trying to influence them not to approve the pipeline, but they did not listen.

Tribes have a history with the Army Corps, and it has not been good. In the 1950s when the Corps wanted to build dams, it built them on Indian reservations, displacing thousands of people, flooding acres of land, destroying many sacred sites.

Initially, the Army Corps officials planned to tunnel under the land north of Bismarck, N.D., in building DALP, but they changed their minds. Instead, they moved the location to north of Standing Rock. Maybe they remembered how easy it was to build dams on Indian reservations. But times have changed. We are not going to accept their decision without protest.

Members of the Sioux Nation are standing up in solidarity. (No Dakota Access in Treaty Territory – Camp of the Sacred Stones / Facebook)

When construction started last week, everybody mobilized on site, and hell broke loose. Several tribal members and two councilmen from Standing Rock were arrested on Friday. I went down on Saturday and participated in a water ceremony and walk.

Now, members of the Oceti Sakowin, known as the great Sioux Nation, are traveling to Standing Rock from South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Nebraska. Three hundred Oglala—one of the seven sub-tribes of the Lakota—are on their way. Bands of Sioux are mobilizing this week, and the protesters on site could grow from 100 to 200 or 300, if not more.

We want the entire Seven Council Fires to come, and we’ll be several hundred strong if every band sends representatives. Several hundred members of the Oceti Sakowin will intimidate anyone. And the National Guard might even be brought in. But the Oceti Sakowin will not back down. They’ll be there as long as they need to be.

This is what nonviolent resistance looks like. (No Dakota Access in Treaty Territory – Camp of the Sacred Stones / Facebook)

We, Dakota/Lakota/Nakota, are strong believers in our spirituality, in prayer, in Wakan Tanka (God). Prayer is integrated in our daily life. We can no longer go into battle with guns and rifles. Instead, we go into battle with prayers. With our strong belief in spirituality and Wakan Tanka, I do believe we will prevail. We might not prevail in the win/loss way of thinking, but we will prevail. As long as there is a Dakota and Lakota on this Earth, we will be fighting.

We will stop DAPL from digging under the Missouri River. They are doing construction a mile upstream of the reservation. If something happens when they are digging under the river, it’s going to contaminate the tribe’s drinking water—the intake for tribal water is a mile downstream—and the entire shoreline.

Water is a finite resource. Standing Rock’s battle over water today becomes our battle tomorrow. Eventually, everyone on Mother Earth will be fighting over water. Unless we stand up and fight today, we eventually will have to pay a lot of mazaska (money) for a gallon of water—more than we pay for a gallon of gasoline today.

The millionaires and billionaires already have bought up most of the world’s fresh water supplies. It will be their new “oil” after the current oil runs out. Selling water to the masses is how they will stay rich. It’s in their interest to destroy all the drinkable water, except the water they control.

War ponies at Standing Rock. (Robert DesJarlait / Facebook)

Everyone—even the ones working on the pipeline and those guarding it, even those in government making laws allowing the destruction of Mother Earth—will be standing in line to buy water. They just refuse to believe it yet because they worship money, which makes the super-rich oil companies gods in their eyes.

In the not-too-distant future, only millionaires and billionaires will be able to afford enough water for all their needs. The rest of us will have to ration water to our families. Can you imagine having your child go thirsty because you don’t have enough money to buy water for everyone in your family? We need to act now.

There is no need to keep violating Mother Earth when renewable sources have the potential to provide much cheaper energy and provide more jobs than oil currently does. But Big Oil will never let the country make the switch, even if it means the destruction of the entire planet.

The fight against DAPL continues. (No Dakota Access in Treaty Territory – Camp of the Sacred Stones / Facebook)

The seven bands of Sioux need to unite and stand strong against DAPL. If we do, we can stop the black snake. We can slow down the brand of capitalism in the U.S. that is endangering our relatives’ way of life at Standing Rock and will endanger all life as we know it. Only the indigenous people of this world and our connection to Mother Earth can save this world from the extremes of capitalism.

Hokahey! (Let’s go!)

Those words are the words our warriors said when they rode into battle. They are a battle cry, and what we face now is a battle—a battle for humanity.

Erich Longie, Ed.D., is a member of the Spirit Lake Dakota and its tribal historic preservation officer.

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