Over 450 people gathered on the evening of Nov. 16 to hear a speech by Ashland-raised activist and former Vice Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke. The fundraiser event raised $8,200 for LaDuke’s organization, Honor the Earth, which is playing a key role in the resistance against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Members of the Native American Student Union (NASU) gave recognition to the Klamath and Shasta tribes, and welcomed the crowd.
Before LaDuke took the stage, a circle of people gathered around a drum to play and sing a song in her honor. The NASU representatives then presented LaDuke with a beaded necklace and a shirt with an “SOU Stands With Standing Rock” design, which had been made in the Stevenson Union by NASU members that day.
LaDuke began her talk with the words of Sitting Bull: “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” She explained that North Dakota, Minnesota, and other states in that region have been subject to numerous pipeline project proposals. When Enbridge Inc. proposed the Sandpiper Pipeline Project in 2013, LaDuke dreamt of “riding against the course of the oil,” and decided to do so. She and fellow tribal members took their horses and rode along the proposed route of the line until Enbridge withdrew their proposal. When that company went on to propose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to harvest the same fracked oil, LaDuke felt the company had cheated her.
“I don’t know the formula for beating a pipeline, but engagement is a key part of it,” LaDuke went on to describe the violence against the water protectors at Standing Rock. Thousands are working to prevent the proposed pipeline from crossing the Missouri River, and their human rights have been violated by police in the process. LaDuke told of one particularly appalling event in which two friends of hers were detained and kept in dog kennels for over nine hours. Additionally, she said that militarized police forces are bringing in Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD), sound cannons engineered to emit noises loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss, and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles despite the fact that the water protectors have no weapons.
LaDuke explained that the depopulation of North Dakota in the last century returned it to an essentially “frontier(like) state,” in which companies have purchased large tracts of land. They have routed pipelines around higher-population cities like Bismarck and instead construct them upstream of Native American Reservations. LaDuke says “a petrolrum-state developed, and no one was paying attention. Environmental organizations were not covering it, because there was no one there.” The effects of this have been felt deeply at Standing Rock. During the second round of the “oil-boom” when the fracking became more widely practiced, over 1,600 new oil rigs were constructed. With each of these rigs came a “man-camp,” an area where fracking employees live, where rates of crimes including drug use, domestic violence, aggravated assault, rape, human trafficking and robbery have risen drastically since their construction, according to LaDuke. Additionally, fracking chemical runoff can contaminate water supplies of nearby communities.
She stated that although the world’s population has doubled in the last 20 years, water use has tripled, and energy consumption has quadrupled. Humans have managed to use over half of the world’s oil reserves. “Did you have a good time? I had a good time. I remember taking my mom’s car on long drives and going to drive-in theaters. It was great!”
LaDuke explained that the Dakota “Excess” Pipeline is being built due to this huge demand for oil resulting in the violation of human rights and cleanliness of land and water. Renewable sources of energy are being jilted because they can’t keep up with current demand; but, as LaDuke questioned, “why would you want to.”
One audience member asked how people can be allies to the people at Standing Rock. While all donations are appreciated, she said to donate what is most needed. See sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/ for a list of items needed. When it comes to food donations, “Lentils are good, but bring meat. Some Indians eat meat,” LaDuke chuckled. She called for a physical presence in the community as well. “We need more people to hang out in Bismarck,” she saidbecause the culture tends to silence itself in favor of ignorance on these grave issues and injustices. She called for allies to “stand at Standing Rock. Stand with us in court, or on the front lines. Work in the cities nearby.”
Honor The Earth wants the U.S. to protect common property and build an infrastructure of solar and wind power. LaDuke called for an “Elegant Transition” into what many Native cultures call the 8th Generation of humankind–an era of peace and prosperity. She wrapped up her talk with a story of men who were approached by the Great Spirit during a sweat-lodge ceremony.
It asked them, “How long are you going to let others determine the future for your children? Are we not warriors? When our ancestors went off to battle, they did not know what the consequences would be, only that if they did nothing, their children would face hardship. Come from a place of hope, not fear. With hope everything is possible. The time is now and the movement is here.”