Statement passed by the YDS Coordinating Committee on September 1st, 2016
Ever since 1492, the indigenous peoples of North America have faced relentless violence and attempts of cultural genocide from external power structures. From historic abuses, such as the Trail of Tears; to contemporary injustices, such as the epidemic of suicide among indigenous youth, or the almost inhumane living standards on reservations in modern times. The spirit and resolve of the first peoples to live on the land we now call the United States of America has been intentionally and mindfully oppressed for centuries. Thus, to see the people of the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakotas stand up against the expansion of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline through their lands, and across the Missouri River, their source of fresh water is to see an awakening of the heart and mind to which we all should bear witness and show solidarity.
It must be noted that the push to build the Dakota Access pipeline is not just a continuation of historic attitudes and policies, but also a reflection of how government and capital treat both the oppressed and exploited and the public at large. Both in Flint, and now on Standing Rock, we have recently seen clearly the ramifications of a government that prioritizes the interests of corporations over the people; a government that would rather authorize pipelines carrying a toxic pollutant for profit than clean water for public health. Take the comments of the chair of the Standing Rock Reservation, Dave Archambault II, who said, “The [Army Corps] puts our water and the lives and livelihoods of many in jeopardy...We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites. But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.” Private business, standing to profit massively from the construction of a pipeline from the shale fields of Western North Dakota to Illinois, benefits from the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers taking the side of capital over the public and most oppressed of us all. Historic sites, sovereign tribal lands, and access to clean water are irrelevant in the pursuit of dirty money. It is this violation of basic dignity and essential human rights that is yet another notch in the belt of big business over the masses; those to whom they hold nothing but contempt, and see nothing but profit.
The Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) notes that it was the work of young indigenous activists, under the banner of ReZpect our Water, who first brought awareness to this issue by speaking out, and embarking on a symbolic run from their homeland in the Dakotas to Washington, DC.Tribes and nations from all over have expressed solidarity to the folks on Standing Rock, and at least 70 have delivered goods such as fresh water. YDS calls for those who wish to act in solidarity do so through local action and material support. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is currently asking for individuals to contact their elected officials stating their opposition to the pipeline, and are soliciting donations to support their legal battle and clean water supply. More information, including messages of solidarity from tribes and other organizations across the globe, can be found on their website at standingrock.org. It is imperative that, at this time, all those who believe in racial justice and environmental protection to come together and stand up and pledge solidarity with those at Standing Rock.