Ongoing Settler Colonialism

Water protectors at the main Standing Rock Sioux resistance camp say the camp sits on unceded Sioux territory under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Larame, stating they have a right to remain on their ancestral land. Nevertheless, ten people were arrested in North Dakota at the main Standing Rock Sioux camp yesterday when hundreds of water protectors were forced to evacuate.

“Because they did the eviction, they thought they would stop the movement. All they have done is enhanced us. All they have done is make us understand what kind of limits (the fossil fuels industry) would go to. We know that when you are on the right side of justice, you continue to stand in prayer and nonviolent resistance,” LaDonna Brave Bull Allard stated today on Democracy Now!. Allard is property owner of the land that the Sacred Stone resistance camp is located on, where many who were evacuated from the main camp moved to yesterday.

Yesterday, native women from the camp released a plea for the people of America to stand with them on stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline: for our country’s water, and for our respect of treaties toward Native people, for the protection of sacred sites and for the protection of edible and medicinal plants growing near the proposed pipeline. It was a chance to turn the course of history in America, but that chance was not taken.

Recent Events:

Earlier last year the Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribes filed litigation toward the Army Corps, asking the U.S. government to undo the approval of the pipeline, and enforce their federally protected rights and interests. The lawsuit states the Army Corps has violated multiple federal statutes, including the National Historic Protection Act, the Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, when it issued the permits. The Army Corps has failed to follow the law — both regarding the risk of oil spills and the protection of their sacred places.

On Dec. 4, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not continue with the project, but then on February 8th the Trump administration signed an executive order allowing the pipeline to be constructed under the Missouri river

On Feb. 8, the Trump administration granted the Lake Oahe easement, allowing the pipeline to be constructed under the Missouri River half a mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Fossil fuels polluters “tend to locate their operations in places where they believe people have less power, often in low-income communities or communities of color.” The approval of the project allows the oil company to dig the pipeline under the Missouri River a half mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation and drinking water supply. An oil spill at this site would equal an existential threat to the Tribe’s culture and life.

Ongoing Resistance:

Linda Black Elk, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux interviewed on Democracy Now! today, stated she and her community were not deterred at all by the evacuations. She stated it’s a part of the process, and the Dakota Access Pipeline and the fossil fuels industry has to be fought on all fronts. People are needed on the front line at camps, people are needed to fight the legal battle, people are needed to divest from banks that support the fossil fuels industry. There are people at Sacred Stone camp currently protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, but people have also gone to Texas to fight the Trans-Paco pipeline, and even up into Canada to fight Enbridge pipeline.

“It’s a continued legacy of oppression by the United States government,” Linda Black Elk stated.

Continued Colonialism:

The term “Settler Colonialism” is about realizing that colonization of America is still happening to this day with the erasure of Native peoples and the marginalization of Black communities.

Australian anthropologist Patrick Wolfe states that settler colonialism is an ongoing process, and that’s why he categorizes himself as a settler in Australia (as a person without Native Australian ancestry). Everyone who is not a native of a land should take responsibility for the continued colonization of the land, as it is not something that happened a long time ago, but something that is still happening.

Wolfe states that settler colonialism is what happened in Australia and the United States, where foreign societies invaded Native societies and tried to “replace” the Natives, instead of using them for labor like other colonizers. Settler colonialism brought its own labor into the country in the form of slaves from abroad.

“(Settler Colonialism) tries to eliminate the Natives and do something completely new with the land that was theirs… The enslaved and their descendants who were bought and sold for labor were used for one purpose, and that purpose was labor, whereas Indigenous people were there for one purpose, that was to disappear, to surrender their land,” Wolfe states in Settler Colonialism Then and Now.

If you had a black ancestor somewhere back in history and your skin is a few shades darker than pale skinned Europeans, you are automatically labelled as a black person in American society. If you are a Native person and you had Native ancestors somewhere back in history, you might no longer be seen as a Native person. This difference in differentiating race spells out the difference of Settler Colonialism.

African slaves were valuable “property,” so colonizers wanted as many as possible. Therefore, the child of a white person and a African slave was still a slave. The child of a Native person and a white person was seen to be a white person, and thus the Native people were erased into white society as their bloodline became “diluted.”

The United States boasts a history of violence toward Native and Black populations, and was founded on settler colonialism. We must all recognize our part in this, and actively work to change history together in the continued fight against colonization in America and around the world: demanding respect for all human life and the planet we live on.

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