Fawn Sharp: Why stand up for Standing Rock?

On Aug. 22, the Quinault Tribal Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s position opposing the Dakota Annex Pipeline. It’s a $3.8 billion project intended to move up to 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil a day more than 1,100 miles across four states through a 30-inch pipe that would run across or beneath 209 rivers, creeks or tributaries. That includes the Missouri River, which provides drinking water and irrigates agricultural land in communities across the Midwest, serving nearly 10 million people.

Some people might wonder why the Quinault Nation is so concerned about a project that’s nearly 1,500 miles away.

Those same people might wonder why that pipeline project has piqued the concern of more than 300 tribal nations that have now sent delegations to Standing Rock, where an encampment of thousands has developed over the past half year. People from Tribal Nations throughout the country are there, along with allies from all walks of life, from every corner of the United States and from numerous other countries as well. They’re there, united in the effort to stop the flow of this explosive, polluting poison.

Why have numerous other tribes and other governments, such as the cities of Seattle, Bellingham, Portland, St. Louis, Minneapolis, as well as the U.S. Departments of the Interior, the U.S. Army, the Department of Justice and even President Obama taken action to halt or delay the pipeline?

And why does the encampment at Standing Rock keep growing, the support resolutions keep coming and more and more people keep asking how they can help?

Ask people and they answer in various ways. Some say they hate oil spills. Others want more action in response to climate change. Some say increased oil-based employment comes at the expense of more sustainable natural resource-based jobs and others are supporting Standing Rock because they’re tired of the unfair and illegal treatment tribes are subjected to by huge corporations and certain branches of non-tribal government.

It is true that the Corps of Engineers approved the project without tribal consultation, which is clearly required by federal law. The pipeline is already desecrating sacred ancestral lands and ancient burial grounds and threatening waters reserved for the traditional use of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation by the Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Whatever reasons people give for flocking to Standing Rock and for supporting this effort, there are qualities that ring true for every one of them. They are good, dedicated people who care. They care about the future. They care about sustainability and justice. They see what’s happening in this world and rather than sit back and gab about it and let others worry about doing something about it, they’re taking time from their everyday lives to get involved with something bigger than themselves. They care about others, such as future generations who will inherit this planet from us when we’re gone. They know there is no future in the expanded exploitation of fossil fuels at the expense of water quality, human rights and sacred and natural treasures.

These so-called protesters aren’t actually protesters as such. They’re actually protectors of our natural world, of the generations to come and of traditional tribal rights and resources. It is certainly understandable that the Standing Rock Sioux would be shocked, horrified, and upset when bulldozers plowed through the graves of their ancestors. When they peacefully tried to stop the massive machines from doing so private security guards unleashed attack dogs on them and deluged them with pepper spray.

It just so happened that the Sept. 3 incident involving the vicious dog attacks occurred on the same land, 150 years to the day after 300 men, women and children members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe were massacred by U.S. soldiers.

So, why has the Quinault Indian Nation been supporting the courageous men, women and children at Standing Rock?

Our message was clear when we opened a recent rally in support of Standing Rock in Seattle on Sept. 24, the day that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed that city’s resolution supporting Standing Rock’s position, and hundreds of us marched peacefully in the streets. Our message: We are a people deeply connected to the natural world. As Chief Seattle said, what we do to the Earth we do to ourselves.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

We are bound together as Tribal Nations. We are bound together as human beings who understand that our Earth is not to be destroyed. Corporate interests need to understand that we stand in harmony with natural resources. What we do to the Earth we do to ourselves. The principles we believe in are principles we will protect for as long as we breathe life. We stand, boldly and strongly, for political justice, social justice, economic justice, environmental justice and we will fiercely confront such violations against any one child, any one of our citizens, any one of our rivers, any one of our forests. These principles are timeless and eternal and they are the solid foundation upon which we will forever take a stand. In this way, we honor our ancestors and those future generations yet to be born.