The Standing Rock Native American Reservation is a Hunkpapa and Yanktonai Dakota Native American Reservation in North and South Dakota. It is the sixth-largest reservation in geographical land area in the U.S. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is peacefully protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that passes through its ancestral lands.
There are two critical issues. First, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River just one half-mile upstream from the tribe’s boundary, where a spill could have catastrophic consequences and wreak havoc throughout Native American land and many northern states. Second, the pipeline would pass through areas of cultural significance, such as sacred sites and burial grounds, that federal law is supposed to protect.
Beginning today at 3 p.m. and continuing through midnight on Thursday, Dec. 1., The Mix, located at 2423 N. St. Mary’s St., and Frank, located at 1150 S. Alamo St., will be hosting a winter supply drive benefiting the water protectors of Standing Rock.
This Friday, local Assiniboine/Sioux activist Jennifer Falcon, Frank owner Daniel Northcutt, artist Cruz Ortiz, and I will transport all donated items directly to the Standing Rock camp. Also, on Tuesday, Nov. 29 from 7-10 p.m. Ortiz will be doing live screen printing at Frank, while Ernest Gonzales will deejay to support the efforts. All funds and items collected will be donated to the Standing Rock camps. So far, more than $3,000 have been raised.
These ongoing protests are part of a more significant history we should all take time to thoughtfully re-examine and consider. Overlooked or treated with only a cursory examination in classroom textbooks, the American Indian Wars accounted for the loss of more American lives – indigenous people, settlers, and federal soldiers – than all other wars involving the U.S. combined.
Retrospectively, the appropriate word that describes this continuing tragedy is genocide – a slow bleed, in the present context. Relegated to undesirable lands that are mostly drought-stricken and lack natural resources and fertile soil for vegetation, reservations continue to be savaged by the federal government that isolated Native Americans on these lands, further dwindling their sovereign rights over time, only after first nullifying any claim they had on their inhabited land in the benchmark U.S. Supreme Court case Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823.
The Johnson case centered around a land title dispute, more specifically which of two parties held the superior title. One party possessed a title issued through a federal land patent, while the other’s was issued by the purchase from the Piankeshaw tribe. Not surprising the Supreme Court, led by John Marshall at the time, enforced its own system of federal laws, opining that the federal land grant was superior to the title issued by the tribe, and that private citizens could not purchase land from Native Americans, essentially stripping Native Americans of all rights to land they inhabited.
This theme of discovery versus conquest continues to emanate from the Johnson case to this day, as the Standing Rock Sioux fight for their most precious resource of all: water. Once again, in the name of economic development, corporations, abetted by local, State, and federal governmental authorities, seek to compromise the limited, scarce, but sovereign land already ceded to Native American Sioux in the Dakotas. In a political and cultural era where words of equality, liberty, racism, and sexism dominate the national conversation, we as a society cannot afford to abandon the most vulnerable people among us: the folks who originally inhabited North America.
Please join us by contributing much needed winter donations this week for participants in the Standing Rock protest, and gather with us Tuesday from 7-10 p.m. at Frank to observe this historic movement.
Also on Tuesday, San Antonio Stands with Standing Rock will stage a protest march from 3-7 p.m. Participants will convene at the corner of 18700 Stone Oak Pkwy. and proceed to the Energy Transfer Partners headquarters at 800 E. Sonterra Blvd.