Sounds and Songs from the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington DC

Sounds and Songs from the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington DC

I was lucky enough to participate in the first Indigenous Peoples March in Washington DC on Friday. Listen to the sounds that surrounded me and join me in considering your place in all of this.

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A call to live out your principles more fully than ever

A call to live out your principles more fully than ever

Don’t forget that it’s up to us, all of it. All of this. If we don’t upend the current state of affairs, who will? If we don’t fight oppression, who will?

We know what we know. I hope that if nothing else, this might inspire you to think hard. If you saw a movie with yourself as the main character, knowing what you know, what you would expect that character to do? What would that character find him or herself doing in the name of living out your principles?

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On Indigenous Peoples Day, a gun dealer donated nine assault rifles to be used in schools. Woof.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, a gun dealer donated nine assault rifles to be used in schools. Woof.

I was invited to host ChoiceMedia.tv's “Story of the Day” for Oct. 8, 2018 — yesterday. So, I did.

But instead of dwelling on the horror of our actual current reality, I would like to encourage you to not let the idea of Indigenous Peoples Day just sit in the past until next year’s special day. One way to take something forward from here throughout the next year is to familiarize yourself with even a tiny sampling of the many brilliant Indigenous folks out there boldly doing their thing, and to add a few authentically Indigenous-led publications to your reading list.

Here are a few links:

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As school starts anew in Seattle, we think of the families still forced apart

As school starts anew in Seattle, we think of the families still forced apart

Suddenly it's September. Somehow it's already the end of the first week of school.

Every summer goes by a bit too fast, but this was a special year for our family, so the past few months went by in a blink.

I began a summer-long break from writing at the beginning of June, and soon after that we welcomed a perfect new baby girl into this world. So, less than two weeks into my little hiatus, mom and baby Sojourner were home full-time along with me. In a matter of a few more days, the school year had ended for our two boys, and we were all home together in a little time-space cocoon spun of family ties. It's a rare gift to have such free and uninterrupted time as an entire family, and we made the most of it -- on the road, in the woods, and especially at home together.

But then, on the first day of school, the bubble popped.

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The fact that we are even discussing arming teachers shows that we’re too far gone for my boys to be safe in public school. It's time to start preparing to get out.

The fact that we are even discussing arming teachers shows that we’re too far gone for my boys to be safe in public school. It's time to start preparing to get out.

The status quo is leading to increasingly disastrous results. Inequity, segregation and gun violence in our schools are only increasing. Things have been really bad since literally the beginning of public schooling, and things are continually getting worse.

Just like every school shooting before this one, if this isn’t the wake-up call that permanently changes our perspective and our behavior, then we ourselves have made sure that it’s nothing more than a pointless, senseless, meaningless tragedy.

Put another way, if you don’t do things differently now, then you’re choosing — knowingly — to continue to be complicit. If I don’t do things differently now, I am, too.

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Black History Today: Three brilliant, bold, beautiful women unapologetically rooted in Blackness

Black History Today: Three brilliant, bold, beautiful women unapologetically rooted in Blackness

Recent pop culture has placed Black Women at the forefront of the conversation, showcasing their abilities to be beautiful, bold, brilliant, unapologetically rooted in blackness — and of course to be what they’ve always been: Heroes.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in the Pacific Northwest, there are three women who are the real-life embodiment of the Dora Milaje or the adored ones.

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Wait, you mean you're not crazy? You must not be paying attention.

Wait, you mean you're not crazy? You must not be paying attention.

Good day, friends.

I’m just writing to give you a heads-up that I’m crazy now.

I had been hovering right on the edge for quite a while, obviously, but I think Neal Morton's recent Seattle Times article officially pushed me off the deep end. He pointed out that we’ve been talking about the opportunity gaps along racial and socioeconomic lines in Seattle Public Schools since the ‘50s — and that today, they’re worse than ever.

In other words, we’ve been acknowledging that things need to change for 70 years now without actually making any changes.

Tell me that’s not enough to drive you crazy.

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The Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards: Honoring a Handful of 2017's Local Heroes

The Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards: Honoring a Handful of 2017's Local Heroes

Welcome one and all to the first semi-annual, fully manual Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards. Thank you for being here, wherever that may be.

These awards were created by me as a way to recognize a handful of Washingtonians who deserve a few extra hand-claps for the way their work and their way of life contributed to positive change in 2017.

The judging process was stringent and unscientific. I created the categories to suit my fancies, and I’ve awarded fake awards to whatever number of people I please. By the end, I’ll have failed to mention just about everyone, so if you find you've been omitted, don’t despair. The pool of nominees was limited to people I know about and managed to think of while writing this, and as a periodic shut-in, that’s not as long a list of names as you might think. For instance, I only finally discovered a few months ago that Chance the Rapper is amazing, if that gives you some idea. So, if you or someone you know has been egregiously overlooked, please get in touch with me and I’m sure I’d be happy to make up some new awards in the near future.

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Reflecting on love of family and love for our city as an urban juror in Seattle

I was called for jury duty this week. Municipal Court of Seattle.

In fact, as I type this, I’m sitting on the 12th floor of the downtown courthouse building awaiting juroral deployment… as I have been doing continuously since 8:30 this morning. It’s been a boring day so far, but it’s nice to have been bored in a warm, beautiful room, if nothing else, watching the sun creep toward the horizon over the Sound. This is my view currently:

IMG_2041.JPG

 

I’ve had plenty of time alone with my thoughts today, and I’ve reached a conclusion: in writing this blog, in focusing on the inequities in Seattle’s schools and communities, I tend to live in a fairly negative head-space when it comes to thinking about my home, about the city where I’m raising my family.

For one thing, that’s not a good way to live. It’s exhausting. Literally depressing, in fact.

But it’s also not an accurate reflection of how I really feel about Seattle. Sure, it’s dark, it’s damp, it’s segregated, and it’s got its share of issues. But it’s also a place of rich beauty, both in terms of the extravagant natural beauty that sandwiches the city and of the interpersonal beauty within it.

I find it’s easy to take for granted the ways that our city and our state — and us, its people — are kicking ass.

We’ve been on the front lines in recent years when it comes to putting our legislation where our “liberal” mouth is. Gay marriage, charter schools and cannabis are all legal, and we’ve taken nation-leading stances against discriminatory laws targeting immigrants and LGBTQ folks.

It’s extremely common now to find gender-neutral bathrooms in Seattle, and a huge number of businesses, restaurants and coffee shops proudly display a commitment to providing safe spaces. This, in contrast, was a sign I encountered in a bathroom last fall in in Miles City, Montana:

urinal chew spit.JPG

 

We’ve done all kinds of courageous, radical things lately. Water protectors in the South Sound last year shut down a train attempting to transport supplies to Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) work sites. We felt the ripples at the time in Standing Rock, and it was powerful.

Seattle divested its public funds from Wells Fargo as a matter of principle a few months back. We are at the vanguard of the movement for fair wages. Activists across the city successfully halted government plans to build a new youth jail. We even had a glimmering moment earlier this year when it looked like we might elect Nikkita Oliver as our next mayor.

And let's not forget there's a baseball team here, which is important for morale — even if, let’s be honest, it’s the Mariners. No offense.

It’s strange how easy it can be to overlook these sorts of things when so much else seems to be crumbling around us. Along these same lines, I spend a lot more time focused on the negatives at Emerson Elementary, the neighborhood public school where we send our oldest son, than I do on the positives.

Now, I’d argue that this is a rightful imbalance, and that I’m not denigrating (I hope) the school or community as much as I am advocating for more resources and attention at an institution that has been long overlooked. But it still means I regularly spend hours looking at a computer screen through the opposite of rose-colored glasses as I write about my son’s school, his district and our home.

It’s weird.

Emerson 2016.jpeg

Emerson is a beautiful place, too. My son walks every day into a cool old brick school building with a view of Lake Washington from the second-story library. The student body could hardly be more diverse, and we are lucky that the school is filled with similarly diverse, committed teachers and staff.

My son’s teacher is fantastic. She sees and values him as a whole person, and when she’s gone, he misses her. He’s learning, he’s comfortable, he’s happy and he’s safe. That’s most of what I could ever ask for out of a school right there. Well, no. But it’s most of what I currently ask for out of a public school, and that’s pretty good.

We’re getting close to that time of year when we start making resolutions, mapping out all the new ways we’re going to start living when the calendar flips. At the top of my list is to appreciate all of the good and beautiful things in my life, starting with the time and love I am so lucky to share with my kids and my partner, and with the beautiful home we share that helps make it possible. All things, it seems, stem from there. I hope, then, as I write and advocate and live through the coming year, to remember that the strength and will to fight against these systems and tools of oppression comes from a place of love.

I write so often about Emerson because I love my son. I write so often about Seattle because I love my family, and I love our city, and I know we can do and be even better.

I write about privilege because I love my life, and because the open doors and loving second chances I’ve been handed over and over should be for everyone.

I’m sure I’ll still spend next year shouting from the rooftops yet again, riled up about inequity and angry about systemic oppression and overt racism and latent bias and about the ways they infect our schools and our lives, and I’ll still be as committed as ever to holding us and our city to an unrelenting standard.

But I do it out of love.

So, that’s my resolution. I’ll keep breathing in the smog and the smoke and the greed and the politics and the racism and the classism and the division and the hate. I’ll breathe it in, filter it out, and exhale it back into the world as love, whatever form that takes.

I'm glad I found this event flyer from Seattle's 'Radical Women' in the street today

I'm glad I found this event flyer from Seattle's 'Radical Women' in the street today

"

I was walking across the street in Columbia City with my younger son today when I saw a yellow flyer sitting face down in the road. It caught my eye for some reason, so I doubled back a couple steps and grabbed it.

Lo and behold, it was about two events being put on by the Seattle chapter of Radical Women. Here's the mission statement from their Facebook page, if you don't know about them. It's one of the best things I've read in ages:

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The Indian Removal Act was signed on this date in 1830. What does it mean today?

A sign hung on the side of a tent at Rosebud Camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in November 2016.

A sign hung on the side of a tent at Rosebud Camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in November 2016.

Today is an important anniversary to remember. It’s not one to by any means celebrate, but neither is it one we can forget.

On May 28, 1830, U.S. President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law.

According to the Library of Congress, this “allowed the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy. During the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, the Cherokees were forcibly moved west by the United States government. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this forced march, which became known as the ‘Trail of Tears.’”

From the U.S. Office of the Historian:

In his 1831 ruling on Cherokee Nation v. the State of Georgia, Chief Justice John Marshall declared that “the Indian territory is admitted to compose a part of the United States,” and affirmed that the tribes were “domestic dependent nations” and “their relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian.” However, the following year the Supreme Court reversed itself and ruled that Indian tribes were indeed sovereign and immune from Georgia laws. President Jackson nonetheless refused to heed the Court’s decision. He obtained the signature of a Cherokee chief agreeing to relocation in the Treaty of New Echota, which Congress ratified against the protests of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay in 1835. The Cherokee signing party represented only a faction of the Cherokee, and the majority followed Principal Chief John Ross in a desperate attempt to hold onto their land. This attempt faltered in 1838, when, under the guns of federal troops and Georgia state militia, the Cherokee tribe were forced to the dry plains across the Mississippi. The best evidence indicates that between three and four thousand out of the fifteen to sixteen thousand Cherokees died en route from the brutal conditions of the “Trail of Tears.”
 

When our government was established, it operated on a system of slavery and a burgeoning belief in “manifest destiny” as justification for genocide of indigenous people.

By 1830, our president was still a slaveowner, and he signed a bill that allowed him to sign treaties never intended to be kept even more freely than before.

Fast forward 183 years, and I can't help but ask what the government has done in that time to earn our trust. More than finding reason to believe in the possibility of tomorrow, I find I'm starting to lose hope.

An article published yesterday by The Intercept, for instance, reveals through public records requests and leaked emails that Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation building the Dakota Access Pipeline, hired a private mercenary firm to work directly with the FBI, BIA and various levels of federal, state and local law enforcement to conduct illegal surveillance and to treat peaceful #NoDAPL demonstrators in Standing Rock last year as “terrorists” and “rioters” on a “battlefield.”

I might be crazy. I’m aware of that. But in a conflict of interest between a for-profit corporation and an organically formed group of people (mostly U.S. citizens), the United States government acted with military force on behalf of the corporation. It's just one of many examples of this phenomenon. What does that mean?

It happened while Obama was in office, and it’s continued with Trump. It's neither a partisan issue nor a new one. What does that mean?

And what does it mean for our kids that we’re sending them to schools made mandatory by this same government? I know that’s a crazy-sounding question in the “normal” world, but it’s one I again can’t keep from asking.

And apparently I'm not the first to ask it, because it’s also one that Malcolm X may have already answered: “Only a fool would let his enemy educate his children.”

Our government has shown throughout history a perfect willingness to treat its own citizens like the enemy. Does that mean we’re fools for thinking we’ll ever find what we’re looking for in their schools?

Standing Rock descends on the White House with sage and ceremony

By Jacq Williams

It's true, what they say: You get used to being cold. It doesn't take all that long, either. One month on the prairie and I barely noticed I was shivering all the time in the constant sodden chill; I was used to the dull ache in my throat and eyes as my sinuses clogged and unclogged, used to never getting fully undressed, to changing one bit of clothing at a time, hiding under blankets. 

It was only fitting that the Native Nations Rise March took place on a freezing, blustery wet day in Washington DC, when just the day before the temperature had neared the seventies. It was as if the tribes who had flooded the capital en masse, arriving by bus and carpooled ride, by plane and train and truck, had dragged the wind-whipped prairie to the Capital with them, perhaps to accentuate the profundity and raw elemental nature of the struggle they faced at Standing Rock. The cold has never deterred the resilience of the First Nations people to fight for the Earth, and it did not this day in Washington, either.

Over 5,000 Native Americans and their allies showed up to walk down the road to the white house, beating drums and dancing and burning bundles of sage. The air was filled with smoke, and with song, prayer, and chants:

"You can't drink oil; keep it in the soil!" 

"We exist! We resist! We rise!" 

And of course, always, "Mni Wiconi!" Water is life.

As we made our way to the National Mall, I glanced up at the suited men and women peering out the windows of the high rises, small groups of them gathered to watch the long train of people march by with our banners and drums and the puppet of the black snake, which weaved through the crowd held aloft on several sticks. I wondered what the people up in those windows were thinking, and if they always stared like that when there was a demonstration taking place, or if there was something special about this one. Something exotic and otherized in the bright colors and burning bundles of herbs.

The way they stood, gawking, made me think about how this country has always treated Native Americans: fetishizing their clothing, culture and looks, bestowing the pigeon-holing archetypes of the "Noble Savage," and at the same time stripping their basic human dignities and long-written land treaties, subjecting them to literally hundreds of years of systematic environmental racism. 

Photo by Jacq Williams.

I thought about how this march, the people who braved the prairie winter, this whole long and harrowing fight, was about violently forcing Native Americans to accept something that was deemed too dangerous for white people. I can't stop coming back to that, through all of this.

We marched. 

We marched to Trump Tower, where on the front lawn the Sioux erected a teepee, and small groups of women danced, while the men drummed and prayed as they symbolically reclaimed the stolen land of their people. I stood on a bench to see protectors snaking around blocks in either directions, dozens of tribes represented, thousands of flushed and sniffling faces who came streaming into the streets from the warm comfort of their lives to stand up for the sacred. Just as they had done at Standing Rock.

I was starting to run into more and more people I knew from camp, people we fed in the kitchen, people who taught me songs and told me secrets, and who came into our yurt at night looking to swap histories. I hugged and laughed with people I was desperate to see again, children and the women who herded them down the slippery hills at camp, the head of security, and the people who built the school among them. I knew half of them had ridden buses for days to be here. Their faces made me ache to be back on the prairie, where we interacted in such an unadulterated and archaic way, never buried in our phones or dogged down by the necessity of exchanging dollars with one another. We learned more about each other than best friends know, having to be present and integral in one another's lives from the very beginning. Having no other choice but to work together. 

We marched on, to the front gates of the White House, where I doubted the President cared enough to glance out of the window, had he been there at all.

It's a strange feeling, resisting in such a forthright and visual way, fighting for what you know is your life and the lives of your children's children, and knowing the lawmakers and lobbyists of this country have the option to just look away. The people in power, and the people at home, who don't visit news sources which would even cover something like this march, can still doze in comfort while we scream in the face of willful ignorance. 

Photo by Jacq Williams.

The Water Protectors gathered at the White House fence, chanted and held banners, and were told to get off of the sidewalk by the police and secret service, over and over again. We took pictures and burned more sage, and some people called out to the police: "Join us! Your grandchildren need clean water, too!" They were met with the blank stares of unabashed indifference. To them we were merely a possible security threat, to be assessed, addressed, dismissed.

My small group broke off and made it to the rally on the lawn. We hung around the outskirts, and were glad we did, as Dave Archambault's voice was the one we soon heard over the surrounding speakers. DAPL Dave, as he is called, is the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and it is widely believed that he made a deal with Energy Transfer Partners and the BIA to dismantle the camps—even those on the private property of Ladonna Allard—and essentially smooth the way for the pipeline's completion. 

Those who didn't know about this cheered him as his spoke his message of unity. Those who did, like Ladonna's daughter, Prairie, stood in the back and shouted their discontent. I felt the splintering, just like I had at camp, of the reality of the situation versus the perception. 

The reality, I have come to understand, is that we were never going to stop a 3 billion dollar pipeline from being completed. Not in a capitalist society which places the monetary value of commodity over life in all its forms. We were there operating under the perception, the hopeful belief, that the will of millions of Americans and the thousands of people who showed up to represent them, were enough to convince the world that the sanctity of our Native Tribes— their sacred land and their drinking water—are of more value than another faulty pipeline meant to carry oil which wouldn't even be used for American consumption. Essentially, that water/life was more important than oil/money. 

We were wrong. Despite the best of our efforts, the black snake has been built and will carry highly volatile fracked oil as early as next week.

But that doesn't mean that it was futile to gather on the prairie or flood the streets of Washington. All else aside, I don't know one person who returned home from the protest in North Dakota without a profound sense of purpose and empowerment, and a deeper understanding of the intersectionality of our resistance. Knowing, down to our marrow, that while we shout for the water we are also shouting for racial equality, environmental justice, and the reconfiguring of an economic system which keeps defense contractors buying islands while children starve on our own soil. 

Gathering like this, making camp and forming community in the face of capitalist greed, flooding the streets of Washington in winter, are in themselves acts of profound defiance. Going back to our own lives with the seeds we took from these gatherings, and planting, cultivating, and redistributing the crop amongst ourselves— that is an act of revolution. To reconfigure a pyramid-shaped system which has forever only benefitted the top, we need people on the ground who have already chosen to live a different way, who are willing to drop everything to come together in rejection of this wildly inequitable structure, to break down the pyramid and use the stones to build well-trodden paths from house to house. 

Standing Rock, and the Native Nations Rise March on DC, have proven that we have those people. That we are willing to brave the elements and our own self-doubt in order to return to a more harmonious, communal, sacred way of life, and that our numbers are growing. The truth is this: among the sleeping souls of complacency, there is an awakening of warriors for a new world who are ready to resist, and to re-imagine. At a moment's notice, ready to rise.

 

Jacq Williams is a freelance writer, homesteader, and activist from Southeast Michigan who spent several weeks at Sacred Stone Camp in Standing Rock in the fall and winter of 2016. She is currently working on an advocacy project for pregnant women in prison and transitional housing, called the Inmate Birth and Infancy Project.

How to Bring the Lessons of Standing Rock into the Classroom

Photo taken by Matt Halvorson on the Standing Rock Reservation in November 2016.
 

Amid the recent executive order expediting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Reservation, teachers inside and outside the community must continue to engage their students and reflect on both its impact and historical context.

The movement to protect the sacred lands of the Oceti Sakowin (the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota Nations) not only united a network of tribal nations and allies, but also sparked long overdue—and sometimes difficult—discussions on a multitude of complex issues, including environmental protection, tribal sovereignty, racial oppression, privilege, and access to power.

While the Sacred Stone Camp has been disbanded, teachers can still engage students in this dialogue and keep this issue—and the history of Native people and lands—in the national consciousness. Below are some resources and suggestions for teachers to leverage now:

Photo taken by  Matt Halvorson  on the Standing Rock Reservation in November 2016.

Photo taken by Matt Halvorson on the Standing Rock Reservation in November 2016.

  1. Get the facts. Discover the historical context of the events leading to Standing Rock with this brief primer from KGW-TV in Portland and a more detailed version from NYC Stands with Standing Rock titled the #StandingRockSyllabus.
  2. Understand firsthand perspectives. Read an account of the protests from Robert Cook, who leads Teach For America’s Native Alliance Initiative. Also be sure to visit an inspiring piece from Tariq Brownotter, a senior at McLaughlin High School in South Dakota who ran more than 500 miles from South Dakota to Washington, D.C., as part of a Dakota Access Pipeline Awareness run. The Washington Post and National Geographic have more voices from the Sacred Stone camp. (RUFS Note: read more about Matt Halvorson's experience at Standing Rock on the Rise Up For Students blog)
  3. Create a powerful lesson. Several news organizations have put together downloadable lesson plans that cover the conflict from a variety of viewpoints in both print and video, including National Geographic, The New York Times (here and here), and KQED-TV, San Francisco’s PBS affiliate. Aside from news outlets, check out this page from Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which offers ways for educators to make Standing Rock accessible to students across a range of subjects.
  4. Teach stories of youth activism. You can also view a collection of resources from The Choices Program, which focuses on youth activists’ role in this and other social movements.
  5. Stay engaged. Learn more about organizations advocating for the rights of Native communities:

 

An original version of this post originally appeared on TeacherPop. Reposted with permission.

Brought to you by Teach For America, TeacherPop provides real talk, tips, and activities that teachers can use in the classroom. Writers offer advice for all of the challenges new teachers face, sharing everything from difficult reflections on their darkest days to quick tips for sprucing up their classrooms and their lives.

Hate has no home in the 98118

I'm back home again in Rainier Beach after a whirlwind six-day trip to and from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, and I'm filled this week by appreciation for my neighborhood.

The 98118 zip code is known to be "the most diverse zip code in the nation," and that diversity is reflected in the messages on the yard signs decorating the blocks.

In just driving a few minutes around our neighborhood with my sons, we found more signs demanding social justice and declaring solidarity than we had time to photograph. Here are just a few:

"Black Lives Matter"
"Silence = More Deaths"
"Stop profiling Muslims."
"Refugees are welcome here."
"No matter where you're from, we're glad you're our neighbor."
"Here we believe love is love, no human is illegal, Black lives matter, science is real, women's rights are human rights, water is life, kindness is everything."

 

These are bold words sending powerful messages at a time when we need them most. What messages are you sending?

What messages are you seeing around you? Do you have photos to share?

 

#BlackLivesMatter
#NoDAPL
#WaterIsLife
#ScienceIsReal
#NoMuslimBan

With largest #NoDAPL camps evacuated, Standing Rock picks up the pieces

I drove back to the #NoDAPL camps at Standing Rock this week.

The Army Corps of Engineers in conjunction with Morton County Law Enforcement issued a deadline of 2 pm Wednesday (Feb. 22) to clear the Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin), which sits on contested land, as well as Rosebud camp and part of Sacred Stone, both of which are (were?) on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation but below the flood plane.

I wanted to be present for the deadline, to do what I could to help, and right at 2 p.m. I found myself in the Oceti camp in a pickup truck trying to find two kids who we’d been told needed to get out (and they did).

Two water protectors look out over the evacuated Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin) as the 2 p.m. eviction deadline ticks past on Feb. 22, 2016. Photo by  Matt Halvorson .

Two water protectors look out over the evacuated Oceti Oyate camp (formerly Oceti Sakowin) as the 2 p.m. eviction deadline ticks past on Feb. 22, 2016. Photo by Matt Halvorson.

 

The strange thing, though, was that the police were not particularly aggressive in clearing out the camp. They arrested either nine or 10 people Wednesday, depending on which report you read, and I’m told that something like 50 more were arrested the next day when the police came back through and fully cleared the camps.

The police tried to intimidate and definitely inflicted some physical injury, but all in all, the eviction was surprisingly peaceful. It only takes one police officer responding with too much force too quickly, or one person reacting too strongly to seeing his grandmother being handled by the police for violence to erupt and turn a situation like this into a disaster.

Instead, it was peaceful-ish, as policing goes. Or if peaceful isn’t the right word, well, nobody died. The police were not startlingly violent toward the water protectors who chose to stay in camp and pray until the end, which is what I was afraid of. But then, the #NoDAPL movement has never been characterized by fatal violence.

Set aside for a moment the grotesque images of water cannons, rubber bullets and explosives used by police in riot gear in Standing Rock.

During the protests in Ferguson of the past few years, militarized police frequently shot real bullets at Black Lives Matter protesters and occasionally killed them. Even when the PR risk should have steadied their trigger fingers, fatalities were commonplace. On the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder, for example, St. Louis Police shot and killed another young black man during that night’s protest.

In Standing Rock, on the other hand, through more than 10 months of steady demonstrations and consistent police confrontation, not one water protector was killed. The police inflicted serious injuries and committed atrocities, but everyone survived.

This has been on my mind for months but hasn’t been something I’ve known how to talk about, partly because I was in Standing Rock bearing witness to much of the police violence that has made the news. And it was painful and traumatic and frightening. But I also made an appearance in Ferguson, and I know that the stakes were more immediate there, though no higher in the long run.

I don't know what it means. Our government and law enforcement certainly have a deep and storied history of killing indigenous people. They just haven't done that in Standing Rock yet, even as they're doing it elsewhere. Maybe it just means that our oppression of people of color has been tailored to each specific community.

Whatever the case, just as happened on Dec. 4 last year when the Army Corps under the Obama administration denied the easement needed for Energy Transfer Partners to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline, this is a time of change and transition for the #NoDAPL camps. Roughly 600 people remained in the camps from mid-December through mid-February, and only a handful of reinforcements arrived this week.

Now many of them are heading home. Many more are staying and continuing the fight on the ground in North Dakota, and a group of committed indigenous activists have promised to continue finding new sites for prayer camps to continue if needed. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who owns the Sacred Stone land and founded the original camp last April, has vowed to maintain a community on her own land as well, come figurative hell or literal high water.

And everyone who is leaving is leaving profoundly changed, it seems, carrying with them a sense of invigorated spirituality and an empowered sense of capability and responsibility to stand up more fiercely than ever to injustice.

Perhaps my greatest takeaway has been the interconnectedness of movements that had remained, until now, disparate. The issues being raised by #NoDAPL water protectors, indigenous rights advocates, environmental activists, Black Lives Matter protesters, immigrant rights groups, education advocates, workers' rights groups and countless others are all symptoms of the same disease, branches of a tree whose trunk contains the sickness of capitalist greed, colonial entitlement and systemic inequity.

I see the possibility for enormous breakthroughs as our passions are shown more clearly to have a common enemy, and as it becomes harder to ignore that our own liberation is dependent on our neighbor’s.

We’re all in this together — even the police officers and DAPL employees who are following orders in order to maintain an income they’re afraid to lose. Even Trump and everyone who voted for him. We are protecting this water for everyone. We are shouting for everyone’s sake that Black Lives Matter -- not just for the Black men and women who face the greatest immediate risk -- because no life is truly valued by a society that declares some expendable. We are demanding equitable access to high-quality public education because its absence leaves a cavity in our country and our communities.

No matter what you hear in the mainstream media, the #NoDAPL movement isn’t ending. It’s just shifting, dispersing, expanding. Water falls from the sky as millions of individual drops, but those beads of water don’t remain separate. They can’t help but combine, to join together as they touch, and in doing so, to become a roaring, powerful body of water.

We, too, seem like millions of individuals, but we come from the same source, whatever that is. We are intrinsically connected. And when we act out those connections, they deepen, and we awaken the potential of our unified power to overwhelm the hate and division that plagues us now.

As Trump tries to get DAPL finished, Standing Rock responds: "We are just now beginning this fight"

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Donald Trump has signed executive memoranda to authorize the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines.

I spent a month at Standing Rock near the end of last year. The violence visited by militarized police on peaceful everyday people was shocking to see up close.

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As intense and vivid as the encounters were with armored police, the more surreal aspects have been even more jarring to me in the long run. What does it mean that they were there, enforcing a corporation’s desire for profit against a peaceful assembly of real-life citizens? What does it mean that the government never fully intervened, even under Obama?

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and she owns the land on the reservation that borders the much-discussed land controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. The original camp of water protectors, Sacred Stone, from which the entire #NoDAPL resistance grew, continues to sit on LaDonna’s private land. She has essentially been hosting everyone who has come to Standing Rock and stayed at the camps.

She posted a video on Facebook today addressing the many conflicting reports and the unrest that has grown out of Trump’s DAPL memo. Here is the full transcript:

Good evening, everybody.
I wanted to tell you, it has been a long day. A lot of things have happened.
We started this day with the United Nations listening to testimony on the water protectors and all of the events that happened to our water protectors. Today was hard, listening to the people who were hurt, the damage they received from Morton County Sheriffs and Army National Guard as they stood up for the water. 
But while we were hearing the testimony, we heard the decision from president trump on signing the executive memoranda — they are not executive orders yet, they are executive memoranda — for Dakota Access and XL Pipeline. 
We knew this day was coming.
We are asking everybody to say prayers today to give the people who are standing strength — wherever you are, to pray.
We have started something that we must complete, and that is the healing of our nations. That is the healing of our people.
And how do we do that? We stand up for the water. We continue to stand up for the water. And so I’m asking you to continue to stand with me. Continue to stand for the beautiful rivers, for the beautiful lakes, for the beautiful creeks. Everywhere our water flows, please stand.
We are just now beginning this fight.
My heart hurts for all those that are hurt, all those that have suffered. But I see something in each one of them. I see this strength and this pride. I see a building of a new nation, and so even as we start this new journey, this new fight — because that’s what it is — we must all stand together.
And we will continue to stand, because I will continue to stand.
I will not back down.
I will not back down. We must stand for the water. We have no other choice. When we stand for the water, we stand for the people. We stand for the people, we stand for healing of our nations. It is time for all the nations to be healed.
So, I wanted to let you know that we continue to stand. I know there’s a lot of confusion out there with the proposed closing of the camps — or not closing of the camps — who has jurisdiction? — all of these things.
Sacred Stone is not closing. We’ll be standing. And we ask you to continue to stand with us. All of you are welcome in my home and on my land. You are welcome to come back and you are welcome to stand with us, because we will continue to stand.
Be safe, everyone. Pray hard, because the journey has just begun.

 

Donald Trump is doing so many dangerous, awful things so quickly that we can't afford to spend any time wondering what to do.

However bad things have been, however unfair, however inequitable, however racist, however sexist, however dangerous Amurrica already was… it’s worse. Trump has his foot on the accelerator of the DeLorean and we are screaming at 88 mph toward the alternate timeline where Biff has the almanac and everything is disgusting and awful. (In fact, Trump might be Biff with the Almanac. I’ll look into that more soon.)

This is what it's like to use a port-a-potty during a blizzard in North Dakota. Photo by Lindsay Hill. 

This is what it's like to use a port-a-potty during a blizzard in North Dakota. Photo by Lindsay Hill. 

My friend Nic Cochran has been in Standing Rock throughout this brutal winter. He would love to go home and be warm indoors back home in West Virginia. He's tired. He acknowledges this. And he called Trump's memorandum "an executive order to stay."

The time is now for all of us everywhere. It’s like every movie. Goodness is under assault, truly. Find a way to stand up against it. Be brave. Be safe if you can, but be brave no matter what. Safety isn’t an option for everyone.

Here's an easy place to start. Join Seattle's visionary leader, Kshama Sawant, who has helped organize an action on Feb. 11 to demand that the Seattle City Council boycott Wells Fargo until it withdraws its DAPL funding: Stop Trump! Boycott Wells Fargo, NoDAPL!

In Trump's America, we're all activists all the time — not just on MLK Day

Martin Luther King Day is a reliable source for inspiration every January. It’s like the activist’s New Year’s. Just about everyone goes out — even lots of folks who wouldn’t normally — and things seem possible and fresh and worth dreaming about.

Particularly striking this year was the intersectionality on display at yesterday's MLK Day march from Garfield High School to downtown Seattle. “Black Lives Matter” was sort of the grounding principle of the event, but woven in seamlessly were protest signs and chants tied to Standing Rock and the #NoDAPL movement, opposing Muslim registry and urging resistance to Trump.

We will face another challenging year together in 2017. Unlike any I’ve ever experienced, I’m quite sure.

If you thought last year was crazy, think about the implications of this woman's sign:

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Days before the inauguration, we have many, many people filling the streets of many, many cities advocating resistance to our President-elect. And not just because we want different things or have different political ideals. This resistance is being shouted into existence out of fear and shock and desperation and self-defense.

We’ve elected a leader whom a LOT of people — intelligent people — believe to be a fascist posing a serious threat to our “democracy.” A startling number of people believe he represents a force to be opposed, and I think there’s good reason to be scared. Trump is a bad guy in the Lord Helmet or Dr. Evil mold — stupid yet sinister. You can never really let your guard down.

I think that sentiment, the idea of “resisting Trump,” in some ways encompasses everything. It gets at the root of the issue for once.

An inequitable public school system is a symptom of an inequitable, racist system of government. Poverty and gross income inequality are symptoms of our savage, discriminatory capitalist system. They aren’t themselves the source of the sickness.

We know our systems are fundamentally flawed. To continue on this way is akin to tirelessly treating every individual symptom of a disease without ever acknowledging the disease that continually births the symptoms. We don’t worry too much about alopecia until the cancer is gone, you know?

So, I hope we continue to see and create this intersectionality all year long. I will not truly be free until all my brothers and sisters share the same privilege that I do. My liberation is tied up in everyone else’s.

Standing Rock and Ferguson, Flint and Charlotte, Seattle and Chicago and New York and everywhere else that someone has been resisting, these are the front lines. They are the front lines not of individual, separate wars, but of different battles within the same desperate struggle against American hate and blind capitalism.

It’s only appropriate today to refer back to someone who has talked much more eloquently about all this than I ever will:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate:
only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
From ‘Where Do We Go From Here?” as published in Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62.

 

Remember: Martin Luther King, Jr., was just a man. He was a man who lived an unusually bold, unusually brilliant life, and his work has made life better for every person in this country. I believe that. But he was also just a father and a son, a husband with a profession. 

We’re all just people, and no one else can do this work for us. It may threaten our comfort and our safety and our lives, but if we are to live out the values that we all so fervently and social-medially supported yesterday, we will have to be bolder than we are used to being, too. We will have to use our fear and our discomfort as torches lighting the pathway to our courage. It will take everyone’s love to drive out this much hate, and everyone includes you.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, but it will be a hollow gesture if we don’t spend the rest of the year backing it up with more bold, loving action in the name of equality.

Resist Trump. 

Day 10 at Standing Rock: Kings Return

 

About the Music: “Kings Return”

From the musician, Cee Goods:

I wanted to end the awareness campaign with something powerful. Something that will last. Like Earth. Earth will beat out all our human greed. I pray we can unite to respect this miracle we live on.

 

From Matt:

I ate Thanksgiving dinner today, but we called it by many different names. Forgiving Day. No Banksgiving. Native Feast Day was my favorite.

We were all invited to the community high school in the nearby town of Cannon Ball, and the community served and ate dinner with us.

A Lakota elder spoke to the crowd first. He told his people's story of the black snake and sang a prayer song.

Then he thanked his Lakota brothers and sisters for being there, and said that we were all Lakota. That we were all living out the values of peace, love, protection and unity.

I thought I was coming to Standing Rock to serve. To help. To offer up my privilege and stand up against something.

It's that, for sure, but it's also much more. It turns out the "Lakota way" is pretty simple: to be your purest, best self every moment of the day. There is no protest, because there is only one way to live.

If we heal ourselves, we can heal the sickness threatening to flow into that pipeline.

Every moment is another chance to live like a king again if you choose to love yourself. If we do that, we will all be living in resistance. We will all be standing with Standing Rock in the most profound way possible. I would be thankful if you would join us.

 

 

#NODAPL #DAPL #CeeGoodsProduction #MattHalvorson #StandingRock #Unity #Community #Earth #Preserve #Water #Life #Love #Fight #Together #Peace #WaterProtectors #Beats #HipHop #Portland