A Teen and his Grandmother
Though Standing Rock Tribe leaders in North Dakota, U.S. had been expressing concerns about an enormous pipeline project scheduled to be built on tribal burial grounds and near rivers critical for drinking water, it was a13-year-old tribe member and his Grandmother who are credited with igniting one of the most impressive movements of our times. On April 1st, 2016 they set up a tipi on historical tribal lands to begin their protest.
The mission they started with then, and still have today, is simple: to live up their tribe's self-described responsibility to serve the land, not as owners of it, but, as protectors of it and all the lives it supports. Hence, their motto: "Mni Wiconi" which means Water is Life. And, their identity: "Water Protectors." Social media caught on and amplified their tiny campaign with hashtags like #NoDAPL.
They were soon joined by 200 other North American Tribes, a collective effort that chiefs say has never happened before in their history. All organized into three camps, two on the Standing Rock reservation and one just north of it, called Camp Oceti, on treaty land managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Social media reported each new tribe that arrived, which, inspired tribes non-native people from all over the world to travel to Standing Rock, too, in solidarity. The occupation swelled as high as 10,000 during peak times, including in early December while the frigid prairie winter brought more challenges.
Peaceful Protestors against Aggressive Sheriffs Office
Throughout, Tribal Leaders persistently insisted the occupation and related protests remain non-violent, in keeping with their peaceful charter. Even so, North Dakota brought in more than 10,000 police and sheriffs from other states for what many saw as unnecessarily militaristic responses and misconduct. Though water protectors suffered numerous injuries, they remained largely peaceful.
A series of lawsuits by the tribe and countersuits by DAPL heightened dramas. With North Dakota fiercy defending DAPL and it's contractor, Energy Transfer Partners, and the federal government intervening when protestors could no longer be ignored. All resulted in a big, if temporary win, when the Army Corp denied a permit DAPL needed to continue on it's planned route, in early December. It was less than a few days away from completion.
Set Back, Again
With the inaugeration of president Donald J. Trump, the government rescinded it's former rulings and succeeded in banishing all protestors from the site.
There's much more to this story, going back to First Nation encounters with the U.S. during the 1800s,
take a look at our Standing Rock Timeline,
or a powerful Video History.
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Standing Rock Water Protectors