Standing with the Standing Rock Reservation

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(Yoon Seok-Hee) Today, over 400 clergies from over 20 different denominations have gathered together to stand with the Standing Rock Reservation’s struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The clergy recognized that the conquest of America was only possible because organized religion sanctioned the massacre and historical erasure of Native Americans. The clergy stood in solidarity with the Native Americans to denounce and apologize for “the doctrine of discovery” that characterized the America the Columbus “discovered,” as “empty,” and claimed the lands for any (White) person who qualified.

The smell of cedar smoke permeates the air. At dawn, the camp is shrouded in a cloud of smoke as half-frozen water protectors struggle towards the sacred fire circle and the life-giving coffee and tea. The landscape is bumpy, with dunes stretching as far as the eye can see. The population of the camp fluctuates every day. Major media coverage brings more visitors, as do weekends. There is an order of some kind, although you couldn’t tell at first glance. There is no leadership besides the respect the tribal elder’s command. Everything, from chopping wood to directing traffic, is done by volunteers. There is a wake-up call (at 6 AM) but you are free to ignore the call. Plenty of people, especially children, do not participate in the organized events.

The camp looks like a cross between a lazy campground—complete with family campfires, SUVs, swimming holes, and horses—and a war zone. Teepees, army tents, tarps, plywoods, and tents of all shapes and sizes dot the landscape with no apparent order. Rules do exist. No guns, no drugs, and no alcohol in the camp, and no racism, sexism, and no violence anywhere. Respect the tribal elders, traditions, and prayers. For members who perform a direct action and risk arrest at the frontline, they must go through training. The tribe is concerned that overly agitated protestors will give law enforcement the excuse they need to crack down further.

The AsiaN will cover the NoDAPL protests on the ground for a week. We will show you the America you do not know through stories of the camp and scenes of the protest.

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