By Katherine Locke
[ Editor’s Note: Although the North Dakota oil pipeline won in the courts, with Trump’s support fully behind the effort, the rest of us were not left with nothing. We got to see that a spontaneous protest movement could materialize quickly to oppose corporate power.
VT thanks all those involved in the fight who have kept the candle burning for the rest of us. We never could understand whey the pipeline people did not just reroute the pipeline away from the major water resources there. They wanted it their way, and got it.
The protest was a “two fer” for the rest of us as we will now get a film out of it. Usually when government and corporate power win they feel that concrete has been poured over the issue.
But having this film, which will go on the festival circuit, will keep the memory and issue alive to hopefully stimulate others ... Jim W. Dean ]
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — “AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock” is a collaborative documentary created in three chapters, each by a different filmmaker, that follows the rise of the peaceful resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
Eventually, thousands of activists and indigenous people from across the country converged on Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to stand in solidarity with the indigenous people, who call themselves water protectors, protesting the construction of the pipeline.
Floris White Bull, advisor and co-writer of the film, was one of the handful that initially went out to protest at the barricade. The tribe had received a two-week notice about the start of construction and White Bull said she spent those weeks worrying. She said more than half the time, she struggles to provide for her family and she did not know what she could do as one person against a billion dollar corporation.
“I was terrified,” White Bull said. “Not just on a personal level, but as a mother. That morning, I kissed my children and I was scared. I left my home that morning, and I said, if I could put my body there, that’s what I’m going to do. That’s all I have, that’s the only thing I have. And I was scared. That first fear is for yourself. And you have to put that aside knowing that it’s bigger than us. It’s more than just one person and I would put myself on the line to help and to make it better for my children, to try. I had to try. And that’s what we did.”
One of the startling things about the footage shot by Academy Award nominated filmmaker; activist Josh Fox and Academy Award nominated filmmaker James Spione and indigenous filmmaker and Digital Smoke Signals founder Myron Dewey is watching unarmed people in prayer confronted by police officers in full riot gear, tanks and weapons. Over and over again, people shout in the film, ‘We are unarmed,’ as police shoot rubber bullets or physically confront them.
On Thanksgiving Day, the protestors were sprayed with high powered hoses in freezing conditions, in fact, the film shows the police deliberately spraying people and a fire meant to keep the protestors warm, an event witnessed by not only the people in North Dakota but those watching on Facebook Live.
One of the directors, James Spione, said that Standing Rock was — and is — so much more than a protest.
“What began in North Dakota has become a worldwide rallying cry of resistance to corporate power and its relentless drive for profit at the expense of human needs, rights and dignity,” Spione said. “If we are to survive this century, it is the indigenous people who will lead the way forward.”
White Bull said that as the film travels the country for screenings, it is hard to watch it over and over again because the footage is so raw and immediate. The immersive documentary features emotional first-person accounts and gripping footage of militarized local police and private security teams confronting people and journalists with rubber bullets, mace, tear gas, water hoses and dogs.
But she also sees it as a call to action for everyone, especially indigenous people, who have earned the right to have their voices heard on behalf of the land, water and beings that are not able to speak for themselves.
“We have a voice and we have a say and we have a right to sit at the world table, that we have contributions, a way of seeing the world and our place in it that can heal the world that we’re hurting today,” White Bull said. “It’s a call to action to all people, all races to take responsibility for the world we’re going to leave and the impacts that we’re forcing other walks of life to incur.”
The pipeline, which was expedited by the Trump administration, now carries fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields through sovereign land and under the Missouri River, the water source for the Standing Rock reservation and 17 million people downstream and the plant life where the tribe continues to gather traditional medicines and edible plants to sustain and heal themselves today.
White Bull said the protest was never just about one pipeline, rather it was about taking responsibility for their lives today and understanding that each life is impermanent but the impact people have on the land and environment lasts.
“We can’t just be passive anymore. . . .
Jim W. Dean Archives 2009-2014