By FAGA TUIGAMALA (FANG)

 

Beginning in early 2016, protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline have taken place. The grassroots movement has taken the planet by storm, both practically and virtually with the eternally trending hashtag, #NoDAPL.

The pipeline is controversial because it is being projected to cross beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and part of Lake Oahe located near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Thousands of protesters, consisting of several Native American tribes and environmental activists,  argue that it is a huge risk as the pipeline would violate sacred land and pose as a peril to the local water supply. They also argue that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe will not receive any of the potential economic benefits from the project.

Although the encampment has been recently cleared, the movement has taught the rest of the world some important lessons:

 

  1. ‘People Power’ rules the world

Imagine if nobody protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. What would that show the rest of the world? When thousands of people – Native Americans and those of other ethnicities – united to protest against the pipeline, it moved and inspired millions across the globe. It educated us about the importance of sacred land to the indigenous and galvanised other oppressed groups to stand up for their rights.

 

  1. The Earth is in our hands; we are the guardians

With the oil pipeline running through sacred lands and waters, there is always the possibility that it could break and contaminate those waters. Water is paramount to the survival of every living thing. We need to stop taking clean water for granted and realise the urgency of it. Like the demonstrators at Standing Rock, our voices are crucial when it comes to protecting our environment and natural resources. The Earth is in your hands. What are you going to do about it?

 

  1. Sometimes, the leaders just don’t get it

A government that says it will fight for the people, yet ignores their voices, is definitely a very hypocritical one. Once the interests of the people are lost in big plans with billion dollar companies, everyone loses. The Trump administration has gone through with the pipeline, despite the universal backlash. Sometimes, world leaders don’t understand how their decisions affect so many people!

 

  1.  This is more relevant to us than we think

Although this is happening over in the U.S., it can be linked back here to New Zealand. Think of the Māori people and their sacred land. Think of Ihumatao as such, a village in Auckland fighting against corporations for the protection of their land. Think about how valued water and land are to indigenous peoples, not only in Aotearoa but around the world. What are we really doing when we take something that precious away from them? Are we really robbing them of their traditions, beliefs, dignity and identity?

Think of the government, think of the upcoming elections, think of your own set of morals and principles. Are you doing your research before you vote? Remember that the people we vote in can end up changing lives for better or worse. Are you making the effort to spread awareness with those around you? Think about Standing Rock and now think of the similar issues right in your own backyard. Not so distant now, right?

 

  1. There is still a long way to go for indigenous rights…and human rights

When plans are made that completely disregard the beliefs of the native people, that’s a pretty clear sign that there is still a lot of work to do. Since last October, armed soldiers and police have begun clearing the campsite where the protestors and environmental activists had been staying. This only made thousands more join the movement. As of February 22nd, the last protestors left the site after a military-style takeover. Violence was used and innocent demonstrators were arrested and beaten. They were subject to this treatment all because they were fighting for their own land, the land their ancestors lived on first. Laws which respect the native people’s beliefs and land need to be implemented and we, as citizens, need to raise awareness about the issues they face, rather than treating them like they are invisible.

So is the fight over? Heck no! The Native Americans left the encampment with a victory dance and prayer. Despite the opposition, they refuse to change their identity and neglect their culture. They have come a long way and we, the world, thank and applaud them.

 

What did you learn from the Standing Rock protests?

FAGA TUIGAMALA,  simply known as ‘Fang’, is a short-sighted music nerd who laughs too much. Keep up with the eccentric pianist on Instagram: @fangtuigamala

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