“They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own use, and fence their neighbors away from her, and deface her with their buildings and their refuse.”
-Sitting Bull (Powder River Council Speech, 1875)
Despite mainstream media‘s lukewarm coverage and plenty of naysayers, the eight thousand protestors at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation were vindicated today when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not issue a permit for the DAPL to pass underneath the dammed section of the Missouri River.
First and foremost, let’s take a bow for those standing with Standing Rock since Sioux Tribal Coordinator LaDonna Brave Bull Allard-whose father and son are buried there-cofounded the protest at Sacred Stone Camp in April. Even the bitter cold and snow of the past week and the threat of approaching major snow storms has done nothing to break the resolve of the protestors. Let us celebrate these people; the local Sioux, the Cherokee that came from as far as the Carolinas and the social activists of all backgrounds who tweeted, posted and went live day after day from Standing Rock.
The Sioux have been the heart and soul of the protests; this is their victory more than anyone else’s. Their land and water were at stake-and something far more profound too. A heritage of centuries of deprivation and injustice made this a fight for the very soul of their existence. Much of what they once had has been effaced and in the unshakeable resolve shown at Standing Rock the Sioux have made it clear that the inextricable link between their identity and their territory will no longer be allowed to be severed.
But beyond that this victory also has the potential to be the beginning of something even greater. The manifest reality of today is that we have endangered our habitat with our excesses. We have poisoned our air and our oceans. We have condemned to extinction literally millions of species of plants and animals many of whom we vanquished before they could even be discovered. The earth warms quicker and sea levels rise faster than even the most generous prediction model forecast. Small island communities ― as well as major nations like Bangladesh and Indonesia ― are already losing shorelines and even arable land. In America, with our over 10,000 miles of shoreline, climate scientists predict a rise in sea levels and markedly increased flooding in coastal cities like New York within the next five decades.
Standing Rock must become the droplet around which the movement to preserve what is yet left untainted by human greed and hubris coalesces. The earth cannot be allowed to remain a commodity for the purveyors of false progress to exploit and mutilate.
There is a greater sense of urgency than ever today in the fight against climate change and the politics of pollution and extinction. In January possibly the most environment-unfriendly administration in modern American history will take charge. A president and his team that are against the EPA, against environmental regulations and deniers of human-induced climate change. This is the challenge before us.
Whatever race, faith or nation we are from, like the Sioux, our lives are inseparable from the land, air and water that sustains us. The rerouting of the Dakota Access Pipeline is a little victory of the bond between ourselves and this earth over our tendency to destroy and devour it. Let the “Great Spirit” that the first people who walked this continent believed animates all be our guide. Let us treat the earth as the precious sustainer that we must preserve for our children rather than an inheritance we can squander away.