White People for Black Lives, the Los Angeles affiliate of Showing Up 4 Racial Justice (SURJ), stands in solidarity with the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) peoples at Standing Rock whose water protectors are staging a defense against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project. Led by politically connected, powerful corporations and bankrolled by Wall Street, the DAPL will snake under the Missouri River, through sacred burial grounds and greatly endanger water sources that are livelihood and life for Oceti Sakowin communities. These facts are only backed by legal doctrine that unequivocally support the case against the pipeline. In fact, the construction is in violation of five federal treaties and regulations that should govern its construction. However, the letter of the law and word of our government has always defrauded Native peoples. Which is why non-Native, and especially white solidarity with the Native water protectors at Standing Rock is paramount. In light of the strength of white nationalist politics demonstrated in the election, white solidarity with people of color led movements is more important than ever.
As white, antiracist allies, we frame this moment of resistance at Standing Rock through the lens of opposition to white supremacy. According to whitestream histories of the United States, the indigenous people of this continent were eradicated by colonization. However, the massive Native resistance shown at Standing Rock is a firm affirmation of Native existence; and, likewise, that colonialism still persists in the US, and must be exposed and opposed. We acknowledge the systematic attempts at the destruction of indigenous peoples, starting in the seventeenth century and continuing to the present day. Broken treaties, smallpox, stolen land, planned starvation, military occupation, kidnapping and forced assimilation, and finally annexation and “second class citizenship” are this country’s record.
In order to swallow the mythology of US democracy, we must refuse to acknowledge the dispossession of land and the political exclusion of Native peoples. In fact, the US democracy story requires their erasure. Those supporting the DAPL just want the Oceti Sakowin to go away, to not have dignities or rights that counter the “progress” of US capitalism. This moment has brought into the consciousness of many white people that which is deliberately hidden from view; it is easy to see the state’s reaction when indigenous people come into view--violent suppression. We, as white antiracist allies, must call out the blatantly racist tactics US governmental and corporate forces are currently employing against indigenous people at Standing Rock. Suppression tactics have included LRADs, MRAPs, attack dogs, pepper spray, mass arrests, rubber bullets, and bean bag rounds.
In challenging white supremacy, we must amplify the indigenous voices that fight for their survival even to this day. We, as white antiracist allies, must advance the interests of indigenous communities by pushing their stories into the consciousness of masses of white people. Humanization penetrates the soothing salve of ignorance. We do not need to frame this struggle as one of whitestream climate change or sustainable development when Native leaders are giving voice to the most critical political analysis on the topic. In North America and globally, indigenous peoples’ struggles for sovereignty and defense of the earth have been the strongest bulwark against the destruction of water and land.
We must draw attention to the unfolding, expected media narrative that centers whiteness, reducing indigenous leaders to primitive, inferior, nameless beings, unworthy of the same rights, privileges and political agency proclaimed available to whites. Indeed, the very land that provides the current battleground is stolen. We must also take care against well-meaning but insensitive attempts by white activists to reshape or redefine Native-led struggles to suit our own narratives or perspectives.
As members of White People for Black Lives-Los Angeles, we recognize that we too are living on stolen lands--of the Tongva peoples. As white allies, we must be conscious of our own participation in the cruel and ongoing colonial denial of the Tongva and other Native peoples and their rights. As such, we must be mindful to keep indigenous people centered in their struggles for justice, so that our alliance with them may continue to grow in challenging evolving practices of colonialism. We must defer to the wisdom and expertise of Native leadership, respecting their lived experiences and trusting that they know both the goals and the tactics that are best suited to meet those goals. More specifically, when in engaged in resistance at Standing Rock, we must arrive with open hearts and minds, as followers.
We are witnessing a critical moment of resistance in Standing Rock. Over 200 tribes have coalesced, uniting in peaceful protest. Thousands of people have come together to ask only for what is theirs ― land and water, yes, but also basic human rights. #WaterIsLife #NoDAPL
Showing Up for Racial Justice offers us specific ways white people can get involved in supporting Standing Rock:
Donation pages are here: https://nodaplsolidarity.org/support-the-camps/
Go to North Dakota. If you're not able to go, take action against all of the targets outlined here: https://nodaplsolidarity.org/targets/. There have been actions taking place across the country, from banks to school walk-outs to police departments to golf courses owned by corporate CEOs
Target mainstream media outlets online to call out lack of coverage, using hashtags #MediaWhiteout and #NoDAPL