In an important victory for Indigenous people everywhere, the Dakota Pipeline protest has been successful. The protest was against a pipeline proposed to be drilled under the Missouri river, only half a kilometre away from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s ancients lands. This may not be the end of the story for the pipeline, as plans are currently being made to search for alternative crossings, but it is a hopeful development none the less.
The protest was formed after repeatedly expressed fears that the potential contamination of tribal land, sacred sites and the river were ignored. Thousands of people gathered at the edge of the Missouri river, linking arms and naming themselves as Protectors of the Water. “Water is Life,” was their message “If you poison the water, you kill us.” Firm in the face of policemen showing up with pepper spray, water cannons, and rubber bullets, the protesters themselves linked arms and staged a peaceful stand at the edge of the river.
This protest at Standing Rock is symbolic of what is happening all over the world. People are realising that if they want their environment to be protected they need to stand up, talk about it and take action. That means protecting the water, it means switching to solar energy, and being more aware of the impact one is having on the enviroment. And there are so many reasons to do so! Research has shown that a healthy environment is one of the most important factors in mental health. In light of this we can see that the Standing Rock Protest stems from more than just an environmental sentiment. Protecting your environment means protecting the health and wellbeing of your people and the generations to come.
David Suzuki put it grimly in a recent article, that “We’re witnessing the terrible effects of fossil fuel addiction every day: frequent, intense storms and floods, extended droughts, rapidly melting Arctic ice, disappearing glaciers, deadly smog and pollution, contaminated waterways and destroyed habitats.” When people stand up and say, “We do not want this for our land” the first step has been made towards a more sustainable path, a step towards solar energy and environmentalism for the sake of the wellbeing of one’s people.
For Indigenous people it goes beyond this. As Elijah Douglas put it in one of his beautiful speeches at AllGrid Energy’s event “Illuminating the EnviroMENTAL”: “When we are on our land in the bush, we can feel the connection. We can feel the presence of our ancestors. We can feel our culture connecting to us.” When ancient and sacred sites are being threatened by modern humanities incessant resource extraction, Indigenous people stand up strong because it is more then their land that is being threatened, it is their entire cultural heritage.
The development in Standing Rock is a process that finds similar threads in what is occurring in Doomadgee and the Barkly Tablelands. Where once there was a community that could only power itself from expensive and environmentally unfriendly diesel generators, there is now a viable way of living powered by sustainable solutions. People that had left their Ancestral homelands due to the a cost of living that could not be sustained, now have the opportunity to return and rebuild their community.
What has happened in Standing Rock is symbolic of what Indigenous people are doing across the planet. Standing up to say, “This is our land and our environment, that we have cared for for generations!” This is a message that needs to be respected. AllGrid hopes that with the technology we can provide, change can be facilitated to transition towards to energy independent Indigenous communities. You can read more about the work we are doing for remote communities here.