Great Lakes Stands With Standing Rock: unity in action

On December 8, Great Lakes Commons hosted another campfire discussion with supporters across the basin. For the past several weeks and months, everyone concerned about water protection, protecting the sacred, and Indigenous rights has been following this story -- a story pitting people against profits, water against oil, and ceremony and treaty law against state and military power. If you want to get an overview of the issue, check out Nick Estes' work and this great timeline of events.

From the shores of Lakes Ontario, Michigan, and Simcoe about 10 GLC supporters came together to share experiences of visiting and learning about the Dakota Nation, the Standing Rock Tribe, and the water protector camps. You can listen to our discussion too.

We started with a go-around of what's been burning in our minds and hearts as we each witnessed what was going on (through social media and by some of us going there). 

FEAR. Most of us care about this issue because we fear the consequences of another oil pipeline and what this means for the sovereignty of the Dakota Nation, the sacredness and heath of the Missouri river, and fear for the climate chaos the political and economic establishment is locking us into. We fear for the freedom and safety of the thousands of water protectors who have stood their ground and travelled to this frontline from communities around the world.

INSPIRATION. We heard about the beauty, inclusiveness, courage, and commitment camp visitors experienced. The organization and spirit of the camps (such as Oceti Sakowin, Sacred Stone, Red Warrior) were models of Indigenous leadership, settler-solidarity, and the practice of deep ceremonial power. For those of us who were watching through livestream video, twitter, news articles, facebook posts, and alternative media videos, we also felt deeply inspired by the energy blocking this pipeline and the hundreds of solidarity actions around the world.

UNITY. The common feeling during this campfire discussion was unity. Not only did over 300 Tribes unify trying to block this pipeline, but people across the USA and the world got engaged. Families, veterans, elders, celebrities, and faith communities joined with water, land, and climate activists to mark their common fears and dreams for generations to come. Building on hundreds of year of decolonization (1876 -- the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1973 -- Wounded Knee, 1990 -- Kanienkehaka Resistance at Oka, 1995 -- Ipperwash Crisis, 2012 -- Idle No More) the unity witnessed at Standing Rock is becoming another needed catalyst for resistance and renewal.

Click on the map to learn more about this issue with more treaty and pipeline maps.

Click on the map to learn more about this issue with more treaty and pipeline maps.

The second half of our conversation explored what projects in the Great Lakes reinforce the type of transformational shift we see at Standing Rock. There were many efforts in reconciliation and re-Indigenization to learn about.

Last July a few hundred people gathered at Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie Ontario for the Great Lakes Gathering. This was an Anishinaabe-led gathering to experience shared meaning through ceremony and shared decision-making through traditional councils. Read about the outcomes through the link.

The Standing Rock Syllabus project was talked about as a practice of sharing knowledge through autonomous organizing. Great Lakes Commons recently hosted a Water Pedagogies campfire discussion with educators from around the basin where new energy was shared for starting a Great Lakes Syllabus project.

We heard about the Picking up our Bundles Canoe Journey -- a grassroots effort to travel alongside respected Elder Josephine Mandamin and all the Water Walkers United from Madeline Island, Wisconsin to or beyond Matane, Quebec. 

There is also growing support for Indigenous-led 'culture camps' where anyone can reconnect to the land and waters through ceremony and survival skills. Culture Camp Forever is just one example lead by the Onamon Collective. Dechina Buch University is another example.

In terms of Pipeline projects, people can lend their support to the new Treaty Alliance -- an Indigenous Sovereignty resurgence effort taking place all over Turtle Island with Indigenous Peoples reasserting themselves as the legitimate governments and caretakers of their territories. There are also many campuses choosing divestment campaigns to shift our investment and energy futures. 

The Pachamama Alliance in Rochester and the Milwaukee Water Protectors are just two of the many groups with local and international ties holding space for this shift of consciousness and behaviour (from treating water as a resource toward seeing water as a source of life). It was good to hear about the importance of joy and celebration in the movement as ways to work with our grief and carry our collective power forward. 

People were grateful for the chance to share their thoughts, feeling, examples, and questions. Just as the hashtags of #WaterIsLife and #ProtectTheSacred have helped the movement spread and there was broad agreement in our groups that #thefrontlineiseverywhere.

If you were on this call please add any missing notes or reflections. If you missed this GLC Campfire event, leave a comment to tell us what you think. Don't forget to listen to the conversation since it has a lot more richness than this summary. 

Viceland has recently produced a series of videos that explore the importance of the Standing Rock struggle. Here's Part 1.