Our final days at Standing Rock, Nov. 20-21
State warfare intensifies — solidarity builds
By Gina Petry
Our final days representing Radical Women and Freedom Socialist Party at Standing Rock were action-packed and compelling.
Varied voices of water protectors
Members of the International Indigenous Youth Council and Gina Perry
Patrick Burns and I spent time with the International Indigenous Youth Council and attended a council meeting. The youth are very organized and serious about their role as the “Seventh Generation” – those who will protect the earth and resources for the future. Video – Standing Rock Youth: “It’s war here.” The Youth Council is a main leadership voice and has been organizing and on the frontline of the actions that many refer to as “ceremonies.” Youth Council members were thrilled to receive the beautiful hand-painted Radical Women and Freedom Socialist Party banner we brought from Seattle. They especially appreciated the message “Solidarity with Warrior Women.”
I interviewed women coordinating an on-site Midwifery Collective and others who have formed the Two Spirit Camp. Two Spirit is an umbrella term used by some indigenous people to describe gay, lesbian, bisexual and gender-variant individuals. Both groups are fulfilling needs at the encampment, and also bringing visibility to often-overlooked issues in Native communities at large.
Patrick continued to build winter housing structures and set up a kitchen supply tent for the Union Camp. He connected with labor activists, including members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). They strategized on getting more rank-and-file workers and unions involved and agreed on the importance of working-class united fronts to oppose environmental destruction.
Vicious onslaught on unarmed activists
On Sunday night, a call went through camp to come to the bridge because an attack was coming down. The bridge is an access point to pipeline construction and is blocked by razor wire, armored vehicles and cop cars. Water protectors have been battling to reach the construction site by way of the bridge. Hundreds of people responded to the call and swarmed onto the bridge. Others of us provided support and witnessed police dousing the crowd with water cannons in the frigid cold, and bombarding them with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Patrick Burns and Construction Team
In the midst of photographing and filming the attack, I spoke to a man from the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota who expressed anger and disgust at the cops, government and corporations for their unending destruction of Native lives and tribal land. This sentiment was widely expressed at the camp.
Patrick and I stayed to help as long as we could, then headed back to our hotel. We opened up our room and shower to those seeking warmth.
When we arrived at camp early Monday morning, we saw the aftermath of the police attack. Patrick spoke with medics who had treated the hundreds injured. He helped carry a young woman who was shot in the groin by a rubber bullet and learned about several others who were targeted so viciously. One woman was severely injured when a tear gas canister hit her eye. Another had her arm smashed by a concussion grenade.
Folks were outraged at the ferocious assault, saying, “This changes everything.” All were even more determined to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). From the announcer booth, a Native man said, “We don’t have to go looking for war, it came to us.” He urged unity and for all to be proud warriors in the battle for the earth and life on it.
Defeating the “black snake” oil pipeline
Repression against the water protectors has continued since we returned home on November 21. Ceremonies and actions on Thanksgiving and Black Friday were again met with excessive force and multiple arrests. Meanwhile, there are reports that DAPL is preparing to drill under the Missouri River.
Rather than President Obama taking action to stop the pipeline as many have hoped, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered the evacuation of thousands of water protectors at Oceti Shakowin camp by December 5. But people are responding to the call for solidarity, including over a thousand war veterans flooding in from across the U.S.
Standing Rock leaders are calling for a month of solidarity actions kicking off on December 1. This includes a campaign to pressure banks to divest from pipeline investments. Individuals are also being asked to close accounts at these banks. Continuing pressure is needed on Energy Transfer Partners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Thank you to everyone who donated to Patrick’s and my trip to Standing Rock. Your generosity made it possible for us to learn, support and make connections with incredible Indigenous leaders and dedicated activists from around the country! We are determined to share what we learned at Standing Rock to build support for this courageous fight for tribal sovereignty and environmental sanity.
Please contact Radical Women or FSP, RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com or 206-985-4621 (ask for Doug Barnes), if you would like to interview Gina or Patrick or have them make a presentation to your union or community organization.
We were proud to send in a donation to help with the trip to Standing Rock.