The protest in Standing Rock is having a far reaching impact.
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne District Chief Troy Thompson and Cornwall Island resident Kaylee Jacco both went to North Dakota to stand with other First Nations communities in protest against the pipeline which they believe is endangering the water supply.
Thompson said he wanted to assess the situation and see for himself what exactly was happening.
“We met a gentleman in the Red Warrior Camp,” said Thompson. “The members of this camp were very involved with the people on the front lines. They are the ones getting arrested.”
Thompson said by the time he got there in September, there had been over 22 arrests. He said the National Guard and local police forces were both on the scene.
“And that’s when it became really aggressive towards the protesters,” he said. “The people being arrested were also being harassed, they were being bullied and threatened. Just a lot of silly stuff.”
Thompson said the charges kept getting increased, as did the fines and the price of bail. Thompson said the Red Warrior Camp was getting a lot of financial support from outside the reservation and he said it seemed like the authorities wanted to drain their bank accounts.
“When we first drove in, the National Guard set up check posts at both sides before you enter Standing Rock and they were seizing supplies that were going to the camp,” he said. “That was really discouraging to see and hear about.”
Thompson said there are still some members of the Akwesasne community in Standing Rock showing their support for the protesters.
“We are very much in support of what they are doing down there,” he said. “In light of what has been happening locally, in Montreal they dumped five billion liters of raw sewage into the river and in Gatineau they just dumped 20 million liters of raw sewage in the river. We are very, very disappointed this is happening and very frustrated and worried. If we keep going down this road, there is going to be damage that is irreversible.”
Thompson said it isn’t only natives who were concerned with the quality of water.
“We all need to do our part to protect the water sources,” he said. “The water source that is the nature of the Dakota access pipeline feeds to one million people, native and non-native. It’s not just for native people.”
Thompson said when he was a boy, he heard two adults talking about a war over water in the future and he thought that it could never happen because there was so much water.
“It was a prophecy,” he said. “Because right now we are fighting for clean water. We are living among the war for water. I find it mind-boggling how corporate America stages people against protesters who are protectors of the water. There are so many injustices going on down there.”
Thompson said if the pipeline wins and goes through Standing Rock Reservation, there will be a protest across the country.
“Being with my Lakota brothers and sisters in Standing Rock, North Dakota, fighting the same fight our ancestors did changed my life,” said Jacco. “I only meant to stay at camp for one week fighting DAPL, but after I became witness to the injustice against my people and experienced the unity among hundreds of nations I couldn’t find it in me to come home as planned.”
Jacco said in standing up against security officers of an oil pipeline unarmed, there wasn’t enough time to be afraid even though she was staring into faces behind SWAT shields, with people holding mace and guns loaded with bean bags and rubber bullets.
“I don’t understand how they can do the things they do,” she said. “I am still in disbelief of what is happening.”
Jacco said they were told to remain peaceful and in prayer, but at times this was not easy.
“The people were beaten down and tired, but still stood tall,” she said.
Jacco said the camp she stayed at was a community with a place for every need, including medical and legal services.
“I was trained in direct action training before being allowed on the front line,” she said. “(I was taught) basic knowledge on how to remain non-violent in the face of violence.”
Jacco said she saw an underaged boy with a number written on his arm from a mass arrest. His number was over 150.
“He told me they put people in dog kennels,” she said. Jacco added being in the camp was tough. The nights were cold and many were sleeping on the ground. She said on two occasions the protestors were in the cold water protesting to be allowed access to sacred burial sites to pray for their ancestors whose graves were desecrated.
Jacco herself was tear-gassed while protesting the pipeline.
“This pipeline will hurt our future generations,” said Jacco. “We need to stop corporations from destroying our mother earth. If I wasn’t the mother of a beautiful two year old I’d still be in Standing Rock. This isn’t just a native issue. It’s so beautiful to see every race joining our fight.”
The Article; Standing United Against Pipeline by Lois Ann Baker, was posted in Cornwall Standard-Freeholder on Nov 16, 2016