On September 17, less than a week after organizers returned from the Sacred Stone Camp in Standing Rock, North Dakota, Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice organized a Report back to discuss their experiences in the camp and the overall implications of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The result was an exciting and informative event which did its best to reflect the spirit, unity and dynamism of the ongoing struggle in North Dakota.
It would have been difficult to miss – as the Culture Saves Lives drum group opened the evening with several songs around the big drum that spelled out onto the street and could be heard all over the surrounding neighbourhood. The room was packed and every available chair was taken by a diverse crowd of indigenous, non-indigenous, younger and older participants who were eager to hear about this important struggle.
One of the drummers, Rupert Richardson, had also travelled to Standing Rock. He spoke of his own reasons for feeling an urgency to participate and support the camp. He also observed that the struggle in Standing Rock is nothing new for indigenous people, who have been fighting for the land and self-determination for hundreds of years.
Videos were all shown of the history of the camp, as well as interviews and footage taken while there the week previous.
Fire This Time organizer Noah Fine discussed the initial decision to send two organizers to the Sacred Stone Camp to participate and document the struggle, as it became increasingly obvious what a crucial role the land defenders were playing there. He walked people through the layout of the camp and how people were coming together and organizing.
Coast Salish elder and longtime indigenous and media activist Kelly White had the whole room standing and shouting, “NO DAPL!” Her songs reflected the struggles she participated in from the 1960's today, including her connection to the Dakotas and the campaign to free indigenous political prisoner Leonard Peltier.
Fire This Time organizer Thomas Davies wrapped up the presentations by emphasizing the importance of the example of the Sacred Stone Camp, especially in a country like Canada where the government has made many promises regarding respecting indigenous rights and the environment, yet continues approving pipelines and resource extraction projects which break all of these promises. “The people of Standing Rock have made a decision to fight, and to fight together, just as we must do in our own struggles on this side of the border.”
The forum wrapped up with an open discussion period that involved questions, observations, prayers, songs and a feeling of optimism for the struggles ahead. To modify a quotation from Che Guevara, “We need, two, three, many Standing Rocks!”
No Dakota Access Pipeline!
Water is Life!
System Change Not Climate Change!
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