Standing Rock Solidarity Toolkit

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While there has been a great victory for the water protectors at Standing Rock and for all people who drink water from the Missouri river after the Army Corp of Engineers did not grant the easement for Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to drill under the Missouri River, the struggle is not over.  There is a continued call for solidarity actions across the country and globe, to ensure that the DAPL Black Snake is put to rest permanently.  

#NoDAPL solidarity and a coalition of groups working on the ground at Standing Rock are calling for a month of action in December.  Many of the pre-contracts for oil will expire on January 1st, leaving oil investors space to cancel their agreements with ETP.  There is a call for actions to happen each day in December.  SURJ has heeded this call and put forth a SURJ day of action for December 20th.  Many chapters and individuals in the network have expressed interest in targeting local banks invested in the pipeline, moving their money from these banks, challenging other beneficiaries of the pipeline, and connecting with local indigenous struggles.

There is currently an ask for people, in particular non-native people, NOT to come to Standing Rock due to the harsh weather conditions, unless you are able to play a significant and specific role, stay for an extended period of time, and be self-sustaining in extreme weather.  Also, material donations are not needed except for a few items like wood, 4 wheel drive vehicles or snowmobiles.  Monetary donations are still being accepted, and supporting native people to get there and stay through the winter is also needed.

It is important that we remember that the struggle at Standing Rock is taking place in the larger context of settler colonialism. Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that differs from “traditional colonialism” where a colonizing European power invades a country to extract goods, resources, labor, etc. in order to serve power and wealth of the European nation.  Settler colonialism, in short, is when colonizers take over a land base and then stay there permanently, completely taking over the societies present on that land.  Settler colonialism exists in “settler states” like the U.S, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina.

Three Main points about settler colonialism:

1. Settler colonialism is about “destroying to replace” (as stated by Patrick Wolfe). This means that, in a settler colonial context, colonizers come to a place with the goal of totally eradicating Indigenous peoples, lifeways, spiritualities, etc. and replacing them with the settler (European) versions of those things. Therefore, the end goal of a settler colonial “project” is the physical or cultural genocide of Indigenous people.

2. Settler colonialism is a structure, not an event. This means that settler colonialism is not something that happened in history.  It is an ongoing and ever-changing structure that defines everything in settler states. In the U.S, these are some of the ways that we can see the settler colonial structure adapting with time: Violent conquest, “Indian Wars”, forced relocation of Indigenous people through the Indian Removal Act and other laws, implementing the reservation system in order to open up Indigenous land to settlers, privatizing  collectively held Indigenous land through laws like the Homestead Act,  and boarding schools, which forced the loss of culture, language, and lifeways.  In this moment, the project of settler colonialism is defined by resource extraction and development on Indigenous lands in the name of progress. Resource extraction -- like coal mining, oil drilling, pipelines, fracking, uranium and copper mining, etc. -- have disproportionately negative health, cultural, and economic consequences for Indigenous people and lands.  Settler colonialism is always about moving land into the hands of a few and always through violent means. Scott Morgensen writes that “settler colonialism is present precisely when it appears not to be.”

3. Settler colonialism means that settlers took over a land full of sovereign, self-determining nations. Those nations have suffered immensely under the system of settler colonialism, but many are still asserting their self-determination and highlighting the fact that they were nations before the U.S settler-state ever existed.  The settler state (and settlers, meaning both; the white descendants of European settlers, and also, the total social infrastructure inherited and projected upon the landscape and society, so as to implicate other non-natives in a very different way) are constantly trying to create a sense of authentic claim to this stolen land.  You can observe settlers trying to establish their belonging on stolen land in many ways. One is through cultural and spiritual appropriation (settler folks wearing headdresses at festivals or attending sweat lodges or falsely claiming Native ancestry). Another common one is the use of “nativist” (xenophobic, anti-immigrant) language like “I want my country back” or “immigrants are invading this country.”

Here are ways you can take action for Standing Rock and against ongoing settler colonialism right now!

ONE-MINUTE ACTION: JOIN SURJ

SURJ is a national volunteer-led organization of White people engaging other White people in racial justice work. We have chapters across the country and are always looking for new members. To join, go here and we will connect you with other people in your area.

TWO-MINUTE ACTION: SIGN PETITIONS

Petitions are one way for us to show a united force. Please take a minute and sign these important petitions.

  • Sign this petition telling Obama to permanently end construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline

  • Sign this or this petition to urge Obama to declare Standing Rock a National Monument.

  • Sign this petition to tell the banks financing DAPL to pull out their money.

  • Ask Obama to free Leonard Peltier, an activist of the Anishinabe, Dakota, and Lakota Nations who had been in prison for over 40 years as a political prisoner.

  • Also, please contact DNB to thank them for pulling their assets from DAPL and ask that they now withdraw all loans to Energy Transfer Partners.

THREE-MINUTE ACTION: CONTACT THE BANKS

Contact the banks that are funding DAPL to apply public pressure and urge them to defund DAPL. There is a list of banks, contact information and talking points here.

HOUR-ACTION: MOVE YOUR MONEY

Water protectors are asking those of us who have our money in one of the financial institutions that is supporting DAPL to move it and to tell your bank why you are moving it! Here are four easy steps you can take to move your money and help defund DAPL.

HOUR+ ACTION: HOST AN EDUCATIONAL POTLUCK/FUNDRAISER

Host a fundraiser/ potluck/ political education event to learn the story of the Indigenous land you're on, connect or begin to connect to local Indigenous led struggles, and hopefully plan another bank action targeting DAPL.  If there are known connections with those banks to local resource extraction projects make those connections.

For tips on holding a house party, see these great resources from our affiliate groups:

1-DAY ACTION: HOST AN ACTION AND SUPPORT LOCAL INDIGENOUS WORK

On December 20th join SURJ groups across the country to take action in solidarity with Standing Rock and with local indigenous struggles.

Please contact zhaukeness@gmail.com if you would like support planning an action!!

If you aren’t able to take action on the 20th here is a link to actions already taking place across the country and a place for folks to join: http://everydayofaction.org/  You can also get ideas for your action based on other actions planned.

Here is a link to a diverse range of solidarity actions that took place recently, for inspiration: https://nodaplsolidarity.org/updates/

HOW TO PLAN YOUR ACTION:

  • Contact local indigenous/Native/American Indian organizations and individuals who have been working on this issue or other local struggles to ensure that your actions align with any plans they may have.  Be in contact with other non-native people who have been involved on this issue to see if there are other actions or events planned or ways that your action could be strategic and beneficial to any other local solidarity with Standing Rock, or other related struggles.  See below for guidelines on building relationships with local indigenous people and groups.

  • Discuss commitment, capacity and plan with your chapter, and with other individuals and organizations interested in collaborating with you on this effort.

  • Agree on your goals of the action: for example building relationships with local indigenous groups, helping influence a bank to pull their support, disruption of business as usual, visibility, media attention, recruiting and calling in new folks to your SURJ chapter.

  • Identify a target or a location to hold the action, what the goals of the action will be, and what the details will be.  Here is a map of banks and company headquarters to target.  Another list can be found here.

  • Here are some questions and planning guidelines to think about when planning the action (don’t get overwhelmed, because there are a lot of questions and maybe some words that aren’t familiar to you)  Here is a more in depth  action planning manual from Ruckus Society:  

  • Gather materials like signs, banners, and fliers to share your message. Make sure your message is bold, short, and clear. Examples include:

    • [Your City] Demands divestment from DAPL!

    • From Standing Rock to _________ We will fight for Indigenous rights!

    • Water is Life! #NoDAPL

  • Give bystanders a chance to act. Have a flyer prepared with a phone call they can make, a next event to attend, and have a sign in sheet to collect their information.

  • Take great photos, and share them and amplify the #NoDAPL struggle, and other local Indigenous efforts.

  • Email these photos to zhaukeness@gmail.com or tweet to @ShowUp4RJ, include #NoDAPLsolidarity in the tweet.

  • Collect money for Standing Rock or a local tribe.

PRACTICES FOR BUILDING SETTLER RESPONSIBILITY AND CONNECTING WITH LOCAL INDIGENOUS STRUGGLES

Remember, the frontline is everywhere! This means that while Standing Rock is a highly visible and historic multi-Tribal effort to protect water and land and preserve culture and sacred sites, there are many such Indigenous-led struggles all around Turtle Island (an Indigenous term for what is called “North America”). Not all are looking for outside support, but many are.  All of the Indigenous-led efforts to protect land, life, and culture represent the front lines against settler colonialism.  There are many roles for settlers to play and much learning for us to do.  Here are some practices to consider:

1. Know whose land you are on. There are plenty of resources out there to help you educate yourself about the land that you--your school, your place of worship--are occupying and its original inhabitants.Here is one. Find out if the tribes or nations are still in that area. If they are not, find out why not. Have they been forcefully relocated? Pushed out in another way?  Acknowledge that you are on occupied land when you say where you are or where you are from. This is an important way to disrupt the “myth of the disappearing Native.”

2. Know your family’s history. How did your family end up in the U.S? Was it through a colonial process in another country? If your ancestors are from a colonizing country, what was your family’s connection to land, spiritual traditions, economies, etc. before that country began colonizing other places? Does your family own land in the U.S? If so, how did they come to acquire it?

3. Learn together. Encourage learning that is personal, emotional, spiritual, embodied, and communal. Host reading groups and discussions that build an understanding of settler colonialism and your and your community’s relationship to it that is tied to Indigenous solidarity. Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is an enormously helpful place to start and there are numerous resources through Unsettling America, the BMIS Website, Colors of Resistance, Journal of Decolonization, No One Is Illegal, Queer Indigenous Studies, Critical Indigenous studies and more.

4. Ask Permission. Asking permission fundamentally shifts the entitlement inherent to the settler experience. Cultural appropriation is an extension of genocide, forced removals, and land theft, as settlers take what does not belong to them as if it is rightfully theirs. This can be countered by asking permission to be on Indigenous peoples’ traditional lands. This practice can be extended in a variety of ways and open up new modes of relating and relationships. As one of the first steps of planning, ask permission for any gatherings, marches, etc. from an Indigenous representative of the land you are on. Invite them to collaborate in planning around gatherings, conferences, actions, and campaigns for justice work on their traditional homeland and be open to the work shifting because of such collaboration.

5. Know where your water, heat, electricity, etc. come from. Lands that were relegated to Indigenous use under the Reservation system often because of their perceived barrenness are now resource colonies for the settler state. Indigenous communities in the U.S are among the hardest hit by the negative impacts of climate change because of the extractive projects and processing that take place on their lands. Coal mining and burning, uranium mining, copper mining, are just a few of the extractive projects that leave toxic legacies for generations to come. The profit from extraction on Native lands is rarely returned to the community who has paid the cost in destruction of lands and sacred sites, damage to health, and devastation of local economies and lifeways.

6. Take responsibility for Christian privilege/Doctrine of Discovery. If you’ve come up in Christian culture, you may be unaware of all the ways that Christianity is culturally dominant in the U.S.  Work with your faith community to raise awareness about the violent legacy of Christian hegemony and move resources to shift power. If you are part of a Christian denomination that has not yet repudiated the “Doctrine of Discovery”—the theological justifications for the theft of Indigenous land—start or join a movement to do so.  Challenge the notion that the settler church was divinely ordained within your church community. Start conversations about Saints or lauded leaders of faith who were directly responsible for conquest. Learn how your church acquired its land and whose land it was originally. Learn the history of your denomination’s relationship to conquest. Consider that within Christian traditions there are built-in practices for atonement and reparations.  Get creative with your spiritual community about what atonement and reparations might look like. If it is possible, try and connect with the Indigenous Tribe or Nation in your area to work on this.  The Christian and Catholic Churches are incredibly well resourced not only in cash but also in land. Many, if not all, Indigenous-led movements across Turtle Island (the Indigenous term for North America) call for return of land to Indigenous stewardship. How can the church leverage its many resources in solidarity with Indigenous-led efforts for land return? There is anew project in California that is working for the return of urban land to Indigenous stewardship.  Could your church start a conversation about putting land in trust and working with a local Indigenous group to steward it?

7. Engage in local struggles/ build relationships. There are ongoing Indigenous-led struggles for land and self-determination taking place all over Turtle Island. Not all Indigenous spaces and organizations are looking for outside support, but many are. Educate yourself on this history of the area and current struggles. Reach out and take principled and accountable action by centering relationships in your work. The work will often be request-based and/or take on various forms of asking for permission, seeking guidance, and input. This is a nuanced dance of taking initiative while ensuring there is guidance and the work upholds, not undermines community self-determination. Your participation in decision making and giving input should be determined by the Indigenous people you work with and will depend on the specific goals. For example, an Indigenous community addressing its own Tribal government has different objectives and requests from non-Natives folks than if cross-community power is being built to challenge Federal and or State policies, energy policy, corporate power, etc.

8. Work for repatriations of land, upholding treaties, and funding Indigenous-led struggles and efforts for land return. This entails supporting Standing Rock, and other Indigenous led struggles in your region, building power to force the state to respect treaties, and doing creative fundraising campaigns such as door knocking for reparations as members of Resource Generation did in the Bay Area in solidarity with Poor Magazine’s “Stolen Land and Hoarded Resources Tour.”Read more here.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Books:

  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

  • “All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by  Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker

  • Undoing Border Colonialism by Harsha Walia

  • Wasáse by Taiaike Alfred

  • This is What Justice Looks Like by Waziyatawin

  • For Indigenous Eyes Only:  A Decolonization Handbook by Waziyatawin and Michael Yellowbird

  • Alliances: Re/Envisioning Indigenous-non-Indigenous Relationships edited by Lynne Davis

Articles:

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