Dispatch from Revcoms:
Our First 24 Hours at Standing Rock
October 30, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 29—Revcoms are on the ground at the historic Standing Rock encampment in North Dakota. We’re uniting with the Native people who are righteously standing up against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and have been occupying this land for months, refusing to back down. We’re reporting on what is happening here for revcom.us. We’re spreading the message from the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, “HOW WE CAN WIN: How We Can Really Make Revolution”—and struggling with the people to get into this right now and be part of the movement for revolution, which is getting organized to overthrow this system at the soonest possible time.
Saturday, October 29 at Standing Rock blockade. Photo: Special to revcom.us
Since arriving yesterday, the importance and significance of the people standing up at Standing Rock to stop the construction of the DAPL pipeline has become all the more clear. People all over the world are hearing about this struggle. But even more people need to know about this—AND take an active stand on the side of this just struggle. The determined resistance needs to become even more broad, involving many more people from different walks of life—at Standing Rock itself and across the country.
We’ve already seen the potential for this in the short time we’ve been here. As we drove on the highway to the main encampment, one of four protest camps, we saw hundreds and hundreds of people encamped. The more than 200 flags of different Native American nations that have come to Standing Rock to demand that the pipeline not be built and to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux is unprecedented and historic. This has never happened, that so many tribes have come together. Several people told us that the Crow Nation, which has historic conflicts with the Sioux people, was one of the first to come out in support of the Standing Rock Sioux.
The struggle is also drawing many non-Native people—environmental activists and others, including well-known people like actors Shailene Woodley and Mark Ruffalo—to come and stand with people there. In just a few hours here, we have already talked to non-Native people from Boston, Los Angeles, Germany, and Australia.
Carl Dix speaks about Standing Rock at the Get Into the Revolution Now rally in Chicago, October 29.
The heroic and defiant actions of the resisters at Standing Rock—in the face of brutal police, armed company thugs, and government lies at all levels—have put a spotlight on how this country is founded on the genocide of Native people and slavery, and on the whole history of broken treaties, stolen land, enforced poverty, and other crimes committed against Native Americans. This fight has laid bare the genocide and oppression of Native people that continue right down to today. And it has pointed to the wanton devastation of the environment by the rulers that particularly impacts and puts at risk areas where indigenous people and others among the most oppressed live, here and around the world. We revcoms are bringing to people the scientific understanding that there is a system of capitalism-imperialism behind all this, that it cannot fundamentally operate in any other way, that it’s going to take an actual revolution to sweep away this system and bring into being a radically new system, and that there is leadership for this revolution.
Throughout the camp, youths are riding horses bareback, dogs are running around and barking, and people are sharing food and camaraderie. It is a community, like a small town. As night falls, at the camp headquarters people are singing in Sioux for hours and dancing. Teepees and tents abound. Firewood is available for all. People are here for the long haul. Some have been here for three months, and some have just arrived. Everyone has a story of why they came.
People from Standing Rock and afar have told us over and over they are here to protect the water and the life of the Standing Rock Sioux, whose lives are endangered by the poisoning of the Missouri River—their water supply—from oil spills. Many have said they have the responsibility to protect the water and the Earth. Some spoke of this as a global problem—that the water all over the Earth is being poisoned. Some of the older people were very saddened about the violent police attack last Thursday on the new encampment, which was cleared. They are afraid that nothing further can be done in response to this violence.
On the other side, north of the encampment, are the sheriff’s department police and the armed mercenaries of DAPL. They are there to make sure the DAPL pipeline is completed. Originally, the route of the pipeline was planned to go near Bismarck, North Dakota, the state capital, about 40 miles to the north of here. But the route was deemed too dangerous to the Bismarck water supply and was rerouted farther south to run through land adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation!
Helicopters, from both the sheriff’s department and DAPL, fly over the encampment along with a single-engine plane that is almost continuously over the encampment, especially at night. The sheriff’s deputies have maced, beaten, and shot people with rubber bullets. One young man from Standing Rock told us of his horse being tased by the deputies and dropping to the ground as the rider was trying to protect elders who were being maced.
On Friday night, as darkness began to fall, an older Native woman came up and asked us if we were hungry. She led us back to her kitchen and fed us turkey and wild rice soup along with delicious fry bread. She talked about how she was taken at a young age and sent to a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding school where she was so traumatized that she decided to go to college and become a mental health worker. She talked at length about the need to pray to the Creator and that he had sent us there. She opposed the anger of the youth. She has been telling them not to be “violent” but to use the Freedom of Religion Act to put their bodies on the line.
Also on Friday night, we talked to a youth who knew about the delegation that attempted to deliver a letter to Hillary Clinton headquarters in Brooklyn, asking her to oppose DAPL—but they were rebuffed. He was very glad to see us at Standing Rock. When we asked him if he knew anything about these angry and rebellious youth, he responded, “I guess that is me and my friends.” About the youth being rejected by Clinton’s representatives in Brooklyn, he said, “I am not surprised, but some of my friends were very upset.” He was in a rush to go treat his horse that had been tased, but before he left we emphasized that he needed to read “HOW WE CAN WIN” and that we wanted to get together very soon, and with his friends as well, to dig into this.
Saturday, October 29: About 200 people came out onto the road for a prayer walk/dance ceremony/drum circle that would provide a presence on the road while some of the elders went to talk with police about the police moving the blockade. Photos: Special to revcom.us
Today, Saturday, started with about 200 Native and other people gathering on the road just north of the camp to hold a “prayer walk” and traditional dance ceremony and to demand that the sheriff’s department reopen the road that leads north to Bismarck. Reopening this road is vital in order to have 40-minute access to the hospitals in Bismarck for pregnant women, the elderly, and the sick, as opposed to a 90-minute roundabout route. The road is blockaded at a bridge by armed sheriff’s deputies and, we are told, armed employees of DAPL that people are calling mercenaries. Two burned-out construction earthmovers lie across the entrance to the bridge. The sheriff’s department is reportedly blocking the road to allow the DAPL construction workers to continue working on the pipeline.
When we got back to camp we talked with two young Native women. One of them is from the Southwest. She said she was there because her late husband, who was Sioux, is buried in the hills near the encampment and this pipeline will desecrate his grave. And she is there to protect the water. She went on to describe how 20 or 30 years ago, her mother was involved in fighting against the forced removal of her people so coal companies could set up massive strip mining operations. They were afraid that the water from the mining operations would be contaminated, and that is exactly what has happened. They have no safe drinking water, and she said their family “could be said to be living there illegally.”
The other young woman is from Standing Rock but is now living in a city on the East Coast. She said this country will never change and that both Clinton and Trump have ties to people who have a lot of money invested in the pipeline. She went on to say that this is bigger than the candidates, that a small group of people make all the decisions. She said, “They’re not going to stop. The U.S. has yet to recognize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People because to do so would be to admit what they have done to indigenous peoples. That’s the leadership of this country. They have too much at stake to side with indigenous people.”
Read the entire HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution HERE
Neither woman responded much when we read the first paragraph of the “What We Need To Do Now” section of “HOW WE CAN WIN.” But when we briefly described the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America to the young woman from the Southwest and suggested in particular that she read the Preamble, she looked through it and asked if she could keep the copy. We made arrangements for her to borrow it and to get it back later. With both these women and the young man we first met in New York, we emphasized the need to get into “HOW WE CAN WIN.” They told us where they and the more rebellious youth are staying and how to find them.
We have met some very interesting non-Native people as well. One young couple from Boston had gone to the San Francisco Bay Area with plans to go camping in the Pacific Northwest. He said that when they heard about what was happening in Standing Rock, they “had an existential crisis.” They felt that they had to be there with the people’s struggle, rented a car and drove to Standing Rock.
About a half dozen people from Burning Man (an annual gathering, described as an “experiment in art and community,” that takes place in Nevada, a collective that takes inspiration from cultures of Native peoples and their respect for the Earth), drove from Los Angeles. One woman is from Germany. She is outraged that people do not see the similarities between the rise of the Nazis and what is happening in the United States. Another woman, from a very spiritual perspective, said she had to be there. We gave them copies of “HOW WE CAN WIN.” They were very excited to hear that we have a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and immediately wanted a copy.
One last thing before signing off on this dispatch: In relation to our goal of advancing the movement for revolution while on the ground here, there have been a number of people who have felt that revolution is necessary, but we have not yet really drawn them out on how they understand what a revolution actually is, and the need for them to be part of getting organized for an actual revolution, starting right now. We have begun to identify some people who are more serious and are beginning to read the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. And we have told people that we want to begin to pull people together very soon to actually dig into the substance of this as well as “HOW WE CAN WIN.” Going forward, we will much more be fighting to make concrete plans with people to do this!
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