Loretta Carr


Indigenous justice is justice for all

Posted on September 15, 2016 by Loretta Carr

I have been very moved by the current historical gathering of tribes in North Dakota. Thousands of Native Americans from more than 100 tribes and their non-native supporters have come together to peacefully protect the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s land and water from the Dakota Access Pipeline Project. According to tribal chairman Dave Archambault II, they object to the bulldozing of burial grounds and sacred archeological sites as well as plans to place the oil pipeline under the Missouri River, the tribe’s main source of drinking water. The tribes’ unifying call to action is “Water is Life.”

The oil company’s security forces have used trained attack dogs, pepper spray, and Mace to intimidate tribe members, and North Dakota’s governor has called in the state’s National Guard as a precautionary measure. Memories of Kent State and the National Guard make me fear for the tribe members’ safety. The latest federal ruling ordered that Dakota Access cannot drill under the river until the Army Corps reevaluates its permits. The tribes have vowed to continue their occupation to permanently stop the project.

Why does the government of this nation so often fall short in protecting its true founding fathers and mothers? Why have the people of this nation cared so little about the indignities committed against Native Americans? Is it because they are poor? Is it because they are not white? Is this the same prejudice that is directed towards Blacks, Latinos, and other minorities in America?

I recall a 2003 public meeting at a church hall in Sonoma where members of the Graton Rancheria answered questions about their proposal to build a casino on Highway 37 south of town, certainly outside the city limits. The atmosphere was confrontational as the good citizens of Sonoma expressed their vehement opposition to the tribe’s plan. In fact, at the end of the meeting, the panel members were escorted out the back door to avoid the shouting and anger directed at them. It was frightening, and I didn’t understand the hostility. I have not witnessed quite the same vitriolic opposition to the hotels, event centers, and tasting rooms even closer to town that have since been built or proposed by developers. Did the tribe present a cultural threat because a historically impoverished and powerless population would suddenly have money and power?

I don’t gamble. I’ve been to the subsequently constructed casino in Rohnert Park only once, but I’ve noticed that the Graton Rancheria tribe has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the community’s public services, nonprofits, and scholarships in addition to providing jobs and support for their own membership. I don’t think their efforts were deserving of such animosity from Sonoma.

Having lived through the 60’s Civil Rights Movement, Chicano Movement, Feminist Movement, and Alcatraz Occupation, I thought we would have evolved further by now, and this type of oppression against people of color, whether red, brown, or black, would no longer be tolerated. Instead, I have watched in horror as the current presidential campaign has fanned the flames of reactionary hatred in 2016.

As the size of the Dakota tribal gathering grows, Amnesty International and the United Nations have called for the fair treatment of Indigenous people as they strive to protect their land and resources. It appears that the United States’ history of broken treaties and desecration of its first people and of the earth itself has reached a critical impasse. I listen hopefully as Cody Hall, South Dakota Cheyenne River Sioux tribal nation member and spokesman for Red Warrior Camp, explains, “This isn’t one tribe or many tribal people saying it’s their movement. It’s everybody’s movement.” I agree. The time has come for all people to take their rightful place at the table. Access updates and live video reports at facebook.com/RedWarriorCamp or www.democracynow.org.

5 thoughts on “Indigenous justice is justice for all

  1. Having just returned from Standing Rock I agree with you ….. right on !!! Progress is being made….

  2. Thank you for writing this. What is happening at Standing Rock is important. I am a Native American – not from Standing Rock, but the Oregon coast (Coos). Many of our people face problems with fighting projects that could harm our water ways and fish, and destroy archaeological sites, burials, sacred sites. It is so hard to fight these battles against the power of Greed and Money. I have been inspired, a bit, by the stories of the Ojibway people – the story of the Windigo, a dangerous being of endless hunger. The more it eats, the more it hungers, never to be satisfied. I have come to feel that Americans never gave up on Manifest Destiny and now suffer from a form of Windigo sickness – not for literal human flesh but in this case for money. At this point, a not insignificant portion of people are willing to ignore the dangers of global warming, the dangers of polluting water, of mass extinctions, all for the sake of the hunger for Money. No amount of money can be or ever will be enough – even if that means the entire globe becomes unsuitable for supporting human life (I suppose some tough old bacteria and cockroaches will make it through).

    As to why there is so much hostility to indigenous people, I’ve been thinking about that. I’d advise reading books like Custer Died For Your Sins by Vine Deloria and the Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King. My thought it, the hostility we often receive as indigenous people isn’t the color of our skin (which, these days as many of us are of mixed heritage, varies a lot anyway) but the fact that we are indigenous. Many Americans give lip service to the idea of equality. Exactly what that means varies from individual to individual, but the cling to the word – and in their eyes, being indigenous is ‘unfair’ and unequal. We have our own governments. Many of our First Nations have treaties with the federal government reserving certain off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights. That right there drives a lot of hostility – there are movements in states with treaty tribes to try to abrogate the treaties once and for all, so those bad Indians can no longer fish, hunt and gather on their own rules. They also don’t like the existence of reservations – to their mind that is also ‘unfair’.

    Plus, I think some people just plain resent the fact we are indigenous. I could attempt to write whole essays on that, but I won’t – writers like King and Deloria, among many others, have already done that.

    Meanwhile, in the midwest, both the people of Standing Rock, numerous farmers in Iowa, and many people who live downstream from the proposed pipeline fear for the continued health of their land and water. I hope for all of us, they win that fight. I know as an Indian that is very hard – we have a long history of losing against the power of greed and money – but by building alliances nationally, I hope this time the battle is one.

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