By Jane Wells
Last month I visited CannonBall North Dakota to bear witness the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This $3.7 billion crude oil pipeline is under construction to carry oil from the Bakken shale oil fields in Northern North Dakota across the Missouri River to Illinois.
It controversial because the current path of the pipeline traverses Native American sacred ancestral lands and will cross the Missouri on Standing Rock Tribal lands, in so doing it threatens the Treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to clean water.
I was lucky to go with Dr. Biron Baker, one of the main protagonists of our film A Different American Dream, and our director Simon Brook. In addition we met up with Dawn Bjoraker and Amy Arndt, two women whose stories we have featured in our films Native Silence and Lost Hope.
The camps are places of activity, prayer and joy, as well as focused determination to stop the pipeline. We soon learned that despite the use of attack dogs by security guards, police road blocks and the presence of National Guard, the two camps: Sacred Stone and Red Warrior are places of peaceful action. Drugs, alcohol and weapons are forbidden at both camps. Prayer is the tactic of choice. The assembled representatives of over 300 Indigenous tribes from across the Americas, were there to be PROTECTORS of water and land rights, not protesters.
Dr. Baker introduced us to LaDonna Tamakawastewin Allard and her colleague Leta Killer-Bailey.
Both women are instrumental in the success of the fight against the pipeline. Since April LaDonna has made her land available to those trying to stop the pipeline and has emerged as the leader of the efforts. As the tribal historian and a grandmother of 17 she has a lifetime of wisdom and knowledge as well as passion for the preservation of sacred lands and burial sites. Last week she came to New York to speak about the Dakota Access Pipeline on Democracy Now and at a Black Lives Matter Protest and at the UN, my husband Jonathan and I were honored to host her while she was here.
When we visited Standing Rock Leta Killer-Bailey had just finished making a map of the camp. A seemingly simple but vital effort, this action has literally saved lives. Now ambulances can easily locate a sick person at the camp and get them the life-saving help they may need. We learned there are many things needed to support this protest. Winter is coming, people living there need water, sanitation, shelter, schools for their children, clothes, food and to be heard.
At 3 Generations we are fully committed to bringing the stories of the water protectors to our audiences and have no doubt that this action is perfectly congruent with our engagement around A Different American Dream. We will post news and updates in real time on the Facebook pages of the 3 Generations and A Different American Dream.
Those at Standing Rock are going to stay until the pipeline is stopped. We will support them in every way we can.