Opinion

Doug George-Kanentiio: We all must do our part for Standing Rock





Caro Gonzales of the International Indigenous Youth Council in North Dakota. Photo by Rob Wilson Photography [GoFundMe]

Standing Up for Standing Rock: All Should Give
By Doug George-Kanentiio

Whenever a people take to protest and succeed in winning their fight by forcing the power elite to concede there are many consequences from reformation of the political system, changes in education, environmental cleanups, new standards of justice and, from time to time, the actual prosecution and imprisonment of former oppressors and government officials. There are also opportunities for the exercising of new ideas and for some, economic profit.

Such has been true for Native people. In the 1960's we were inspired by the black people as we watched them were lynched, beaten and imprisoned for demanding their human and constitutional rights. We saw the attacks, the police dogs, the tear gas but they did not stop, they were not to be denied.

In early part of the 1960's traditional leaders began to share information by hosting a series of historic sessions in various parts of the continent. They formed unity caravans and pooled their meager resources to take to the roads, traveling from Hopi, the northeast, the Pacific coast and from the heart of the continent. They met in community centers, longhouses, kivas. They knew the time had come to exchange ideas, to share prophecies to prepare the younger generation for the great ecological and social changes about to take place and to try and enlighten the world as to the effects industrialization was having on the earth. It was a prolonged call for human beings to turn away from certain destruction.

PLEASE SHARE? #WaterIsLife To date, more than 300 tribes and first nations officially stand with Standing Rock by way...

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Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Facebook: Official Fund [Crowdrise]

Delegations were selected to go to the "house of mica" in New York City and there deliver not only words of caution but hope as well. From there individuals and small groups went across the great salt waters, to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, South America where they met other indigenous peoples and formed friendship and alliances, knowing that what befell one would effect all.

At Akwesasne the Mohawk Nation Council took the lead by sponsoring a touring group called the White Roots of Peace. For a decade this cluster of elders and young people took the message of good will, politics, news and information across the continent. They were Creek, Mohawk, Cree, Inuit, Seneca, Choctaw-lighting the fires of indigenous sovereignty, holding social dances, distributing books, holding classroom sessions. They went to prisons, Native centers, schools; anyplace where Native people were to be found to call them to stand and cast off the suffocating cloak of colonialism.

In 1968 the Mohawk Nation Council authorized the creation of Akwesasne Notes, that publication which was to become the most effective news journal in Native history. It was through the pages of Notes that the worldwide indigenous rights movement was given voice. It proved to be the training ground for dozens of Native journalists and served as a distributor for books, posters, calendars and crafts.

By the time I began my tenure as editor of Notes (following in the footsteps of the amazing John Mohawk) we a staff of 25 and provided an economic outlet for dozens more by marketing their handmade goods.

The thing to note that our traditional leaders knew we had to make use of certain technologies and information dissemination systems if we were to liberate ourselves and change the way in which Natives were perceived and that our respective histories had to reflect our truths. We were determined to change the minds of the college students we met and thereby challenge them to rewrite the lies and deceptions which had become embedded in US and Canadian schools, that such disinformation and distortions cause us, and the land, great harm.

The unity caravans, the human rights advocates, the environmental teachers, the journalists, all contributed to a revolution in Native life.

Two Warrior Women in prayer bravely pass by the massive police force at a construction site of the Dakota Access...

Posted by Sacred Stone Camp on Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Camp of the Sacred Stone on Facebook: Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Joye Braun, left, and International Indigenous Youth Council representative Caro Gonzales. Photo by Rob Wilson Photography [GoFundMe]

Because of Akwesasne Notes and the White Roots of Peace we had Richard Oakes, an Akwesasne Mohawk living in San Francisco, empowered enough to swim to Alcatraz in November, 1969 and thereby give international attention to the struggle. Others took heart and protests on campuses went nation wide. After Oakes (my cousin) was shot and killed in 1972 his friends organized a caravan to Washington in his memory. This attracted the interest of Natives everywhere and became the "Trail of Broken Treaties" which reached DC just before the national elections.

The Native people gathered there entered the offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and occupied that building only three blocks from the White House causing Richard Nixon to panic. He had the FBI infiltrate the occupiers and vandalize the interior of the BIA before they left.

Some months later many of the same people went to assist the Lakotas at Pine Ridge in protest of land cessions there. Led by the American Indian Movement the taking of the trading post at Wounded Knee, site of the 1890 massacre, was the longest armed confrontation within the US since the Civil War.

But there were those who thought that political sovereignty might also have financial benefits. The first to try new ventures in this area was Bob Satiacum (1929-1991), a traditional leader from the Puyallup Nation. Mr. Satiacum began the first large scale tobacco selling business on Native lands and the first commercial bingo hall. He faced opposition from the US and Washington State but he prevailed in court and his victory inspired other nations to do likewise with the Seminoles of Florida and the Oneidas of both Wisconsin and New York following. Satiacum's lead caused an economic revolution across Indian Country but he would never had been able to make his fortune without the activists, without the advocates, without the caravaners, the writers, the speakers, the Native rights protestors.

That is why the fight for our pre-European culture, the struggle to preserve our treaties, the determination to sustain a distinct aboriginal identity must be actively supported by any entity which generates profit from our standing as Native nations. All Native gambling entities should now be contributing to Standing Rock. They should be holding fundraisers, asking patrons to donate, sending representatives to North Dakota. They should be encouraging their performers to either talk about Standing Rock or considering holding concerts there for the people. They should make use of their media connections to spread the story and to have Standing Rock delegates come to their communities. They should also adopt the ecological principles of Stand Rock and make use of alternative energy technologies. They can also lobby officials on the local and national level to support Standing Rock and to pressure the North Dakota governor to refrain from calling out the National Guard.

And to those who feel compelled to take a stand at Standing Rock. Be prepared to endure cold, be ready to be arrested, take direction from the leaders at Standing Rock, bring food sufficient for yourself and to share, bring medicine-both traditional and contemporary. Bring tents, warm clothing and a peaceful attitude. Neither bring or use anything which changes the mind. Know there is a risk of confrontation and have the resources to bail yourself out of jail. Bring information about your media contacts: call in every talk show you can think of. Bring monetary donations. Bring video recorders, satellite cell phones and cameras. Document what you can. Have the numbers of the US Justice Department ready and the numbers of your respective home politicians ready to use in an emergency.

It will be a long winter and those corporations are in for the long haul. They cannot afford to lose this round and will act accordingly.

Our Native martyrs and our activist elders are watching: do them proud.

Doug George-Kanentiio is an Akwesasne Mohawk currently residing on Oneida Territory with his wife Joanne Shenandoah.

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