Native People Waging Historic Struggle Against Dakota Access Pipeline

A historic struggle is brewing in North Dakota, where hundreds of Native Americans have mobilized to oppose the construction of a major oil pipeline across the Missouri River.

Local tribal members and their supporters have gathered near Cannonball, North Dakota in a large and growing prayer camp, unified behind the slogan Mni wiconi, meaning “water is life” in the Lakota language.

The Dakota Access Pipeline they are standing against is designed to move he pipeline would eventually haul 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota 1,172 miles to Illinois and refineries further south.

Given the troubling record of pipeline safety in the U.S. the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is gravely concerned that the pipeline’s planned path across the Missouri River is just one mile upstream from the 8,000-person reservation. The Missouri is the tribe’s only source of water. The pipeline will also disturb sacred sites on land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Last weekend The New York Times featured a front-page photo of young Native activists on horseback across from a line of law enforcement officers near the planned pipeline construction site. In fact, the peaceful stand by American Indian volunteers against this Big Oil project is getting more mainstream coverage than just about any Native issue in memory.

But little of the reporting captures the truly historic nature of the conflict.

The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline is shaping up to be a rallying cry for indigenous people across the continent and for the broader climate movement as well. And it’s not going away anytime soon.

The Camp of the Sacred Stones prayer encampment was initiated by members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe back in April to little national notice. But news of the heroic opposition to the Dakota Pipeline soon spread across Indian Country by word of mouth and social media — which has become one of the main venues of solidarity and struggle for Native peoples in recent years.

“We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites,” Dave Archambault II, the elected chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a statement. “But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.”

As of the beginning of August, local authorities had arrested nearly two dozen peaceful protesters, including elected tribal leaders. The tribe filed a formal injunction to halt construction on the pipeline, about which they say they were not consulted. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple then declared a state of emergency and put the National Guard on call despite the peaceful nature of the camp. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier attempted to stoke local tensions by declaring, “It is turning into an unlawful protest with some of the things that have been done and have been compromised at this point. We have had incidents and reports of weapons, of pipe bombs, of some shots fired.”

Organizers and leaders strongly deny these claims. All firearms, weapons, alcohol and drugs are strictly forbidden in the camp, which is home to many families and young children.

When the governor closed local roads and used blockades to corral the camp, the North Dakota ACLU responded by stating, “If the highway remains closed and we receive additional information regarding violations of the rights of individuals to protest peacefully, we will pursue all legal remedies available to us to prevent further abuses. We ardently hope that the government works with us to ensure that peaceful protest is permitted and not hindered by governmental action.”

Now, the camp hosts as many as 3,000 people, many from Standing Rock reservation, but many more from an estimated 100 other tribes from around the country. Hundreds of volunteers maintain kitchens, campsites, cleanup and logistics for the encampment. Hundreds of long-term and short-term visitors have made their way to Cannonball to show solidarity and stand with Standing Rock.

According to some observers, the gathering near Standing Rock is the broadest political gathering of indigenous tribes of North America in modern times. Almost daily shipments of drinking water, food, supplies, or tribal delegations arrive in the camp.

“The atmosphere at the Camp of the Sacred Stones is transformative,” said Judith Le Blanc, a member of the Caddo tribe and director of the Native Organizers Alliance who spent a week at the camp. “It is a community taking care of each other, the land and the water… Many people who are making the camp their home have never been activists before. They came here as protectors, not protesters.”

The encampment has grabbed attention in part because it’s a classic David and Goliath Story.

The $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline is backed by big money (a consortium that includes the owners of Sunoco gasoline) and is bolstered by promises of jobs and support from elected officials of both major parties.

Sections of the pipeline across all four states have already been built, but Dakota Access faces opposition elsewhere as well. On Wednesday, members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) and Bold Iowa beat back an attempt to silence protests of the pipeline in that state.

“We have been in this pipeline fight for over two years, and have vowed to use all of the tools available to us in our fight,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director at Iowa CCI. “We will not be deterred or bullied by Big Oil.”

In late August a federal judge postponed ruling on the injunction until September 9, with a backup date for any appeals set for September 14. Whatever the ruling, there is a big struggle ahead in the courts and on the soil of North Dakota – and people around the world will continue to stand with Standing Rock.

Originally appeared at Ourfuture.org

Native Americans still fighting for voting equality



Excerpt from Cronkite News:

SAN JUAN COUNTY, Utah – Terry Whitehat remembers gathering at the community hall in Navajo Mountain each election day, where Navajo Nation members in this remote Utah community would cast their ballots.

The tribal members would catch up with friends and family and eat food under the cottonwood trees in the parking lot.

So when Whitehat, a social worker who has lived most of his life on the reservation, received a ballot in the mail for the 2014 elections, he said it caught him off guard.

The county began conducting elections by mail in 2014. Members of the Navajo Nation who live in the area could no longer physically vote in the village. If they wanted to vote in person, they would have to drive to the only remaining polling place at the county seat in Monticello, a 400-mile round trip from Navajo Mountain.

Whitehat and a half-dozen other Navajo community members, along with the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, sued the county. They claimed the move to a mail-only election disenfranchised Native Americans, especially those who don’t read or speak English and had limited access to mail. They said it also violated the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.

Across the country, other tribal members have filed similar suits alleging that state laws and county election practices intentionally make it harder to vote on reservations. Local jurisdictions don’t always provide translators or polling locations on reservations, and tougher state voter identification laws have created problems for those who don’t have birth certificates or only have tribal ID.

“Native Americans have been the victim of the political process since the creation of the United States,” said OJ Semans, a retired police officer turned Native American voting rights crusader in South Dakota. “What we need to do is organize in order to protect what our ancestors passed on to us.”

To read full article, visit AZPBS.org

Native Organizers Training 2016

The Native Organizers Alliance will hold our 5th annual Native Organizers Training in August 2016.

APPLICATIONS ARE CLOSED FOR 2016!

Signup for updates so you don’t miss upcoming training opportunities

The training is geared to Natives organizing in Indian Country, in rural, reservation or urban communities. It is a four-day intensive workshop that covers building people-power, campaign planning, community led policy change, and how to use our stories to win struggles, all through the lens of our Native cultural traditions. This training is an opportunity to strengthen Indian Country’s organizing infrastructure through relationship building, peer support and coordination with other Natives who are doing community organizing. This workshop prepares organizers for leading a community-driven campaign on the issues and concerns that are relevant to Indian Country.

This workshop is for Native people involved in social justice efforts in Indian Country — tribal leaders, community organizers and staff of native-led nonprofits — folks who want to work to make transformational change in Indian country.

The training is free for participants. Cost of housing, transportation and most meals are covered by the program. Participants are responsible for additional costs. Space is limited to 20 participants. Unfortunately, not all who apply will be accepted.


Participants in the 2015 Native Organizer Training

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Thanks to the financial support of the Communities Creating Healthy Environments, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

WHEN
August 06, 2016 at 1pm – August 10, 2016
CONTACT
Judith Le Blanc · j.leblanc@peoplesaction.org · 917-806-8775

Native Women and Race

Native women are often left out of the conversation about race. Judith LeBlanc shares her intersections of race, gender and tribal sovereignty interact and inform one another.

#RaceAnd is a video series exploring the ways that race compounds and intersects with all the other issues faced by people of color. Each video features a different artist, activist, or thinker, sharing their lived experience of how race intertwines with their other identities, and how that mix impacts their lives both personally and systemically. Learn more by visiting www.raceforward.org/videos/RaceAnd

Directed & Edited by Kat Lazo

Race Forward advances racial justice through research, media and practice. Founded in 1981, Race Forward brings systematic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. Race Forward publishes the daily news site Colorlines and presents Facing Race, the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice.

Racial Slurs Have No Place in Football

The leaves are changing. The scent of pumpkin spice lattes is in the air. In short, it’s football season. And like millions of my fellow Americans, I love football. But I’m also American Indian. So for me, football season also means hearing a racial slur all the time. It’s used by sports teams around the country — and by Washington, D.C.’s National Football League team in particular. You may know that franchise as the Redskins. I refer to it as the R-word. Natives have been calling on sports teams to do away with the slur for 50 years, along with other mocking mascots and racist caricatures of Natives employed by teams of all kinds. Professional outfits should know better, but so should schools and communities. So I celebrated recently, along with much of Indian Country, when California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Racial Mascots Act into law. It banned the state’s public schools from using the R-word to name sports teams. Schools in four California counties will soon have to rebrand their buildings, logos, uniforms, and mascots. “We cannot change history or erase the past,” said Dahkota Kicking Bear Brown, president of Native Education Raising Dedicated Students. “But today, as Native students, we shall celebrate this step in the right direction of improving our educational experiences.” I agree. Now if we can just convince our nation’s leaders to do the same. My hope faded, though, when I heard Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush use the R-word not once, not twice, but three times during an interview in October. Then there’s GOP candidate Donald Trump, who proclaimed that Indians are “extremely proud” of the term. Wrong. For Native children, the R-word and its associated mascots are demeaning and disparaging, eroding their self-confidence and self-image. Unsurprisingly, peer-reviewed studies have suggested that racist mascots can hurt the performance of Native students. It’s an additional mockery for an already suffering group of young people whose second-leading cause of death is suicide. And it’s an added insult to people whose treaty rights are still being violated, even today. Native Americans are regularly confronted with attempts to turn our sacred religious lands over to corporations for profit. In Oak Flat, Arizona, some 2,400 acres of national forest land — protected since 1955 as Apache sacred land — is being handed over to Resolution Copper, a British-Australian mining conglomerate. Meanwhile Natives continue to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, which would funnel oil mined from tar sands nearly 1,800 miles from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico through multiple sovereign Indian territories. The U.S. government never negotiated with the tribes when charting the pipeline, despite the impact it will have on their lands. And in spite of long-standing poverty, gross health disparities between Natives and non-Natives, and ongoing discrimination, federal funding for Indian health care, housing, and education programs remains paltry. Most people have the good sense not to use the R-word to our faces. So why would you plaster it across a stadium? Dropping the R-word alone won’t solve these deep crises in Indian Country. But it’s a crucial step toward restoring the equity, dignity, and democracy taken from the first people of this land. At the very least, it’ll let us all get back to enjoying football — without the nasty reminder that the rights of American Indians still aren’t fully recognized.
Judith Le Blanc is the Director of the Native Organizers Alliance and an enrolled member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

October 2015 Alaska Native Organizers Training

Sponsored by Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), the Indigenous Leadership Institute (ILI) and the Native Organizers Alliance (NOA).

Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Indigenous Leadership Institute (ILI), and Native Organizers Alliance (NOA) will host the first ever Alaska Native Organizers Training this fall in Anchorage! This is a four day intensive workshop on community organizing that covers building and leveraging people-power, campaign planning, community led policy change, direct action and how to use our stories to win battles.

This workshop focuses on skill building while recognizing the particular aspects of organizing in Alaska. Community organizing is needed more than ever here in Alaska. This training is an opportunity to bolster community organizing efforts through relationship building, peer support and coordination with other Natives who are doing community organizing.

This workshop prepares organizers for leading a community driven campaign on the issues and concerns that are relevant to Alaska.

When: October 12- 15, 2015

Where: Anchorage, Alaska

Who: This workshop is for people involved in social and environmental justice efforts in Alaska – such as community volunteers, Policy Directors, Executive Directors, Community Engagement Coordinators, Community Organizers, folks who want to work to make change for and with their people!

How to participate: Space is limited. Those interested should complete the short (& simple) application form  http://goo.gl/forms/5e7ff41KDv by October 1.

Cost: Free to all selected to participate! Travel, housing and some meals are included.

For More Information: Contact: Enei Begay (Indigenous Leadership Institute) at eneibegaye@gmail.com or call (907) 374-5950

The training is sponsored by REDOIL https://www.facebook.com/redoilalaska, ILI www.indigenousleadership.org and NOA http://www.nativeorganizing.org/

Thanks to the Chorus Foundation for its generous support.

2015 Native Organizers Training a Big Success!

Thirty organizers and activists from across Indian Country came together in Seattle in June for a special training opportunity hosted by the Native Organizers Alliance: the annual intensive four-day Native Organizing Training. Grassroots organizing is both an art and a science. In Indian Country, the art of organizing is reflected in the Native-led action against oil drilling in the Arctic by the ‘Kayaktivists’ in the “Paddle in Seattle”, and the round dance flash mobs of Idle No More. In four days our aim was to study the science of organizing – Native style, in keeping with our traditions and with our history. In our jam-packed, daylong sessions, we explored ways to build Native organizers’ skills to meet the unique challenges of organizing in Native communities, on reservations, and in urban and rural centers. We shared lessons, best practices and examined the techniques for building a stronger grassroots movement for social change in Indian Country. In the end some participants said we needed another day, and most agreed we needed more breaks and time to digest the information. Good advice for next year’s Native Organizing Training! While exploring the nuts and bolts of outreach, leadership development, strategy and tactics, the participants worked to find the unique, yet critical elements of community engagement that flow from Indian Country’s history and traditions. After four intensive days together, it is clear that here is so much more to learn about how to deepen our understanding of Native community organizing. This is just the beginning! The future of Indian Country rests on growing a broad infrastructure of Native organizers and activists who facilitate campaigns that get at the root causes of the lack of jobs, healthy communities and protect treaty rights, sovereignty and Mother Earth from destruction. The training provided an opportunity to share stories of the tremendous challenges our communities face and our vision and passion for bringing about structural change that will help Native communities not only survive, but also thrive. The participants were hungry for more opportunity to go deeper into the challenges they face on the ground. Next year’s sessions will need to provide that opportunity in various ways. Some participants asked that we now consider regional trainings that go beyond Native Organizing 101, to tackle more real life, complicated strategic challenges in Indian Country. Some suggested segments focused on political empowerment related to advocacy, voter engagement and lobbying. In their written evaluations most said that the most important part of the experience was getting together with others who share a common outlook on movement building in Indian Country. Especially impressive were the younger participants,coming from cutting edge Indian Country experiences. For instance, one of the activists is a part of the occupation to protect sacred Apache land from uranium mining in Oak Flat, AZ. Another was a Native radio talk show host, and one young man will be headed to the White House for the Native youth gathering in the next week. One woman representing the “AIM generation” (radicalized in the 1970s) is a traditional Dine organizer. She has been fighting for decades for compensation from the coal and uranium mining companies for the contamination of Navajo land, water and air. She felt uplifted by the energy of the young organizers in the room, who are just beginning the fight for justice in their communities. One of the most popular sessions of the training was on power mapping. David Bender, the community organizer for the American Indian Center of Chicago, said learning how to map the potential allies and likely opponents in an organizing campaign will help him prepare both his leaders and grassroots members to think and engage more strategically in their work. At the end of fast-paced week, participants – whether they work in small villages in Alaska, on the Navajo or Hopi Reservations, or in the heart of Chicago, Portland or Billings – went home inspired by the knowledge that they are a part of something bigger. Our hope is that the participants will continue to work together with support from the Native Organizers Alliance to amplify a stronger Native voice on key issues at the national level. One young participant said, “Nothing is more important for organizers than having a collective with so many common experiences. I see myself working closely with my fellow students and the trainers as we go forward.” The sheer demand for this training says something powerful about the groundswell of the grassroots upsurge in Indian Country: in a few short weeks, more than 130 people submitted applications for the 30 available slots. Now the work will continue at home and at the Native Organizers Alliance. Some of the participants will help organize local Native trainings in Alaska, Montana, and South Dakota. One participant even volunteered to become a Native Organizers Alliance trainer. On the national level, we are organizing a national advisory board and growing a circle of partner organizations that we will provide with trainings, and technical support such as research and joint fundraising to keep grassroots organizing moving in Indian Country. Personally, it was inspiring to hear the journeys so many have taken to carry on and preserve – despite many difficulties – our history, cultures, and future. It is extremely important in our communities to widen the circle of those who can take action that will in many ways help our people to heal with pride and commitment to our common struggle. I was also struck by the heightened awareness of the need for unity in Indian Country. There is so much more that unites us than divides us. The unity that exists between those who organize on the Rez, in rural areas or urban centers, and those who continue the struggle for tribal recognition, serves as the key to building alliances with the vast cross section of people in the U.S. – those who can and must be a part of the movement for justice in Indian Country. The curriculum, preparation, and training, was a collaborative effort and would not have been possible without Ozawa Bineshi Albert (former organizer for the Center for Community Change and Native American Voters Alliance in New Mexico) and Donavon Hawk (activist and leader from Montana), my co-facilitators. With much love and respect to all who participated in the 2015 Native Organizing Training. A new circle of movement building in Indian Country has begun, thank you!