CESA is Connected With All Who Support Standing Rock Water Protectors

CESA is Connected With All Who Support Standing Rock Water Protectors

We have all paid attention to the struggle at Standing Rock these past few months, understanding every additional day that the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) is blocked is a victory. Knowing that so many others are writing, speaking, resisting, and building together, we offer these brief words.  Water protectors are the steady line of resistance to intrusion and broken treaties by State and private interests attempting to erode Indigenous sovereignty.  CESA supports Standing Rock and asserts that Indigenous life, communities, and sovereignty are central to the critical approaches we engage as we struggle to build spaces for organizing, activism, writing, and teaching.  Our Board has always consisted of folks who move simultaneously within academic institutions, non-profits, organizing collectives, and community spaces.  No single member comes from a place where the institution is the only point of reference in their everyday practice. Because of this, writing as a Board in support of Indigenous life, Native Studies, organized resistance, and solidarity work is reflective of how we strive to live our own politics and reflects who we are both individually and collectively.  We offer here a summary of what’s at stake along with a list of links toresourceswe urge you to use to help support, amplify and educate about the #NoDAPL fight.


Indigenous peoples have been on the front lines of oil pipeline construction for some time now. The Keystone XL and Sandpiper pipelines were halted in large part because of Indigenous activists organizing to protect the land and waters of their traditional territories. Similarly, Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples have been working to protect life in the face of the Dakota Access Pipeline before it made it into the the more well read alternative media sites. Indigenous people in the region and tribal governments and representatives have been vocally opposing the DAPL project since the project was initially proposed in 2014. In the summer of 2016 Native youth from Standing Rock and neighboring Indigenous communities led a spiritual run traveling over 2000 miles to Washington D.C. in opposition to DAPL and in defense of Indigenous sovereignty, land, water, and sacred sites.  Since August 2016, leaders from the Standing Rock Sioux nation and their Native and non-Native allies have camped and organized a sustained series of direct actions to protect the Missouri River from the construction of DAPL and the imminent threat of a pipeline burst. Throughout this struggle Indigenous leaders have pursued legal and advocacy strategies to assert sovereignty and oppose the pipeline’s negative impacts to land, water, and life. The entire way they have been met with violence, disrespect, disregard, or the hollow sound of empty words from federal government decision-makers instead of meaningful consideration and action.


On November 20, 2016, both the Energy Transfer Partners private contract security and "public servant" law enforcement joined forces to weaponize water (using water canons, tear gas, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets) against the very water protectors from Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their invited comrades.  They authorized dogs to attack unarmed Indigenous people and allies gathered in prayer to defend burial sites. They specifically targeted journalists and independent media with rubber bullets, draconian legal threats, surveillance, harassment, and arrest. They used experimental military equipment such as sound cannons, light pollution, etc. to induce sleep deprivation and psychological harm against the peaceful water protectors. Horses were killed. Unarmed, peaceful, prayerful water protectors have suffered immense bodily harm at the hands of police, state forces, and private security mercenaries including cardiac arrest, hypothermia, severely damaged limbs, blindness, broken bones, and internal injuries.

At the time, activists and ceremonial people on the ground reported the presence of militarized police carrying assault weapons with live ammunition. There was fear that this live ammunition would be utilized along with water cannons to induce death during the harsh winter conditions. There was fear that harassment and blockades against the free movement of emergency services, medical support, and supplies would cause severe harm or death to those who remain steadfast in prayer and protection of the land. On December 5th, the anniversary of General George Armstrong Custer’s birth, a cruel irony occurred as these most recent threats to forcibly evict the camp and restrict the free movement of supplies began on that very day.  We are reminded that this is not the first time that the colonial state has sought access to wealth and the destruction of Indigenous lands at the expense of Indigenous life. Indeed, as we edit we remember Chief Sitting Bull was killed 163 years ago on Dec 15th, 1890 on Standing Rock Reservation for resisting arrest by an agent of the settler state.

The anniversary of his death reminds us of what happens in the  presence of state and federal law enforcement framed as a necessity for safety.  But the presence of enforcement does not create safety, it has instead established violence against the land and people who are there to defend life.  It is enforcement that enacts violence against people, animals, and earth while constantly disavowing its own role in doing so.   The movements of Indigenous nations and other allies including Black Lives Matters as the issue connected Flint to Standing Rock; the movements to address missing and murdered indigenous women, are all resistance against these discourses of enforcement and “safety” of  police and militarize violence against organized survival.


What’s at stake is not just the protection of Lakota territory for Lakota people only but the insistence on protecting life for everyone who sources their water from the Missouri River. A place of Indigenous knowledge production in multiple Indigenous lead camp sites hosting over 300 Nations from around the globe has been inspiring. We all watched as  the Dec 5th eviction deadline approached as well as veterans in support as part of an act of reconciliation for their participation in 500 years of military brutality. Those at Standing Rock offer us all hope … in a significant way:  Water protectors model for us that another way of living is possible, that people can be connected and relate to each other in ways that settler colonialism and white supremacy have worked so hard to destroy. The water protectors are enacting a different future for the world, one we are profoundly grateful for today.


With the Army Corp denial of easement of the injunction, a breath of victory was exhaled. In the next breath came attention to a permanent end to the Black Snake. A call and invitation for supporters of the NoDAPL movement to adopt and enact the steps to  divest from Banks and Corporations funding the pipeline. At this juncture between December 5th and the void of the contract on January 1st it is clear that divestment is a critical strategy that can help bankrupt the project where changing minds on the basis of conscience could not.

That said we recognize that not everyone has the option to shift their banking or other financial business to credit unions or entities that do not have ties to this project. However, wherever possible adding pressure to financial institutions, corporations, and politicians who support the pipeline is crucial so that even a change of ownership of pipeline assets becomes impossible!

The call for supporters over the summer and over the last few weeks spread a powerful message of solidarity and boots-on-ground strength. There are still ways for each of us who could not physically  make it to Standing Rock, to commit to a different kind of support through vigilance about the right to fair representation for protesters who were arrested and collective power through the divestment movement.

We must all halt this threat endangering the fluid of Life itself. Every living being depends on water for Life. Water is life. Standing Rock is everywhere.

 - Critical Ethnic Studies Association Board 2016


This is by no means a complete list of resources or sites but we offer them to our readers.



Standing Rock Syllabus




International Links

Canadian Banking

How to Contact Banks Fuding DAPL

Defunding Link



There are few public defenders licensed in North Dakota and even fewer who can provide adequate legal representation for over 500 Standing Rock protestors.  Advocates and organizers have asked the North Dakota Supreme Court to allow attorneys licensed from states outside North Dakota to come in and serve and represent protestors.  Without this access, the majority of protestors have little choice but to accept inadequate legal representation in North Dakota, continue through the legal process without the representation of an attorney, or forego the right to a speedy trial until representation becomes available.


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