This post is a different style than my typical blogs. It has been described by an early, anonymous reader (who I happened to be married to) as boring and too factual. The criticism was there wasn’t enough heart in it. I have made some edits based on the feedback, and, for me, my heart is behind the facts. I care deeply about the right to sovereignty of the Native Americans. I care deeply about the safety of the drinking water of the Missouri River, and I care deeply about the ravages of the fossil fuel industry on this planet. My heart is at Standing Rock!
Before working as a transformative coach and in the field of Spiritual Psychology, I was a geographer — a cultural geographer to be exact. Although much of my work was a theoretical critique, I did do fieldwork in Guatemala and had a subspecialty in Latin America studies. I learned from my research of the painful history of the Indigenous people of Guatemala. Yet, despite the ravages of Spanish greed, military might, devastating Old World diseases, and the loss of life, when the country was torn apart by civil war, their culture and people continue to survive and find ways to thrive. The resilience of the Mayan people in Central America is true of all Indigenous cultures. All of the First People on this planet have endured atrocities in the face of colonizing settlements.
With an intimate understanding of the oppression and subjugation of Native American people, I choose to use my voice to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies who have come together at Standing Rock to protect the water, to stand for their sovereignty, to assert their right to self-determination, and to fight for their right for survival. The resistance of the Indigenous people at Standing Rock is a continuation of a centuries old battle against colonial violence and domination. The water protectors have a right to protect their land, their culture, their resources, and their lives. Their fight for what is rightfully theirs benefits all of us. It protects our water and highlights the need to find alternative resources to fuel our lives.
I was incensed when I read Richard Epstein’s comment in, Presidential Miscues on the Dakota Access Pipeline, where he claims the legal case is closed and the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies have transformed the legal dispute into a political circus. He asserts that part of this circus is turning the dispute into “a re-examination of the entire history of troubled relations between the United States government and the Native American tribes, on the perverse logic that any misdeeds that took place over a century ago justify a departure from the applicable legal rules governing the case …”
Perverse logic! The logic that is perverse to me is to ignore the history of Native American people being repeatedly lied to by the U.S. government over hundreds of years. The attempt to build the Dakota Access Pipeline against the wishes of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe represents only one in a long line of violations of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie that told the Sioux they would not be invaded or disturbed. After the treaty was created, whites built a railroad through their land resulting in overhunting of buffalo, thereby decimating the Sioux’s food source. A further agreement was made between the Sioux and the U.S. government in 1868 with the Sioux agreeing that if they stayed within the Great Sioux Reservation, they would be given sovereignty and no white settlers would be allowed. This lasted until 1874 when gold was discovered in the Black Hills of the Sioux land, and General Custer invaded violating the treaty and opening up the area to white settlement. Then there was the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee where up to 300 Lakota, also known as the Teton Sioux, men, women, and children were killed.
Just because legal i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, by a judge that did not respect the Treaty of Fort Laramie, does not mean justice was carried out or that respect, agreement, and understanding were reached. I raise the perverse logic of bringing up misdeeds that took place over a century ago, and put on the table, the entire history of European imperialism and settler colonialism. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States and founder of the Departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s studies at California State University, Hayward, writes in her article Yes, Native American’s Were the Victims of Genocide :
US history, as well as inherited Indigenous trauma, cannot be understood without dealing with the genocide that the United States committed against Indigenous peoples. From the colonial period through the founding of the United States and continuing in the twentieth century, this has entailed torture, terror, sexual abuse, massacres, systemic military occupations, removals of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories, forced removal of Native America children to military-like boarding schools, allotment, and a policy of termination.
The results of colonialism were catastrophic. How can what is happening at Standing Rock be seen from an ahistorical perspective? When will we, the colonizers, change how we relate to Indigenous people and their rightful sovereignty? As Americans, we are allowed to live on this land as a result of the Doctrine of Discovery. Dunbar-Ortiz explains this was one of the first principles of international law that Christian European monarchies used to legitimize investigating, mapping, and claiming lands belonging to people outside of Europe. This doctrine was later adopted by the U.S. government.
The Doctrine of Discovery is like me saying, if I have never been to Beverly Hills before, I (queen in my own mind, Rohini) can go and discover Beverly Hills and lay claim to it by planting my Rohini flag in the ground because I declare it so and turn that into law. Then all my friends think that is a good idea, so they adopt it as their own law and go and discover Malibu and Bel Air and claim that land and property as theirs. That is the insane logic that allows any of us, other than the Native American people, to be here.
We cannot change the past, but we can create a new future. Today the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies are participating in a nonviolent protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline because it jeopardizes the safety of their drinking water, as well as the drinking water of the seventeen million other people who rely on water associated with the Missouri River, and it violates their sacred burial grounds. They are being confronted by the militarized police of Morton County, supporting corporate interests. On Friday, November 25, 2016, the federal body of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to Standing Rock Sioux saying they intend to shut down the main camp, Oceti Sakowin, on December 5th due to safety concerns. This is ironic considering the threat to safety is coming from the concussion grenades, rubber bullets, mace, batons, tasers, and water canons of the police, and Indigenous protesters are being arrested for trespassing on their own land.
In a statement issued by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Chairman, Dave Archambault II, the head of a domestic sovereign nation, he asserts:
The best way to protect people during the winter, and reduce the risk of conflict between water protectors and militarized police, is to deny the easement for the Oahe crossing, and deny it now. We ask that everyone who can appeal to President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the future of our people and rescind all permits, and deny the easement to cross the Missouri River just north of our Reservation and straight through our treaty lands. When the Dakota Access Pipeline chose this route, they did not consider our strong opposition. Our concerns were clearly articulated directly to them in a tribal council meeting held on Sept. 30, 2014, where DAPL and the ND Public Service Commission came to us with this route. We have released the audio recording from that meeting.
In the face of the threat by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Archambault II remains strong in his resolve to protect the water. He firmly states:
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe stands united with more than 300 tribal nations and the water protectors who are here peacefully protesting the Dakota access pipeline to bolster indigenous people’s rights. We continue to fight for these rights, which continue to be eroded. Although we have suffered much, we still have hope that the President will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people and especially our children.
My previous life as a cultural geographer may seem unrelated to the work I do now, but as I stand for the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies, I am clear on the importance of my spiritual foundation. I am committed to share my truth from the highest level of consciousness available to me. I support the peaceful protest and bring my peace to the cause. It is my intention to add love and understanding to the struggle, and I recognize when the system in place does not make room for deeper understanding, compassion, and agreement between people, people are forced to go outside of the system and speak out for what they believe is right. This has happened previously in the U.S. related to the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and the fight for civil rights. Now we can stand for Indigenous rights.
I stand in solidarity with the Sioux Tribe of Standing Rock and their allies in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I urge you to take action and support the water protectors. Here is a link for nine effective ways to help the Water Protectors.
Rohini Ross is a psychotherapist, a leadership consultant, and an executive coach. She helps individuals, couples, and professionals to connect more fully with their true nature so they can experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. In addition to providing trainings, Rohini also co-facilitates three-day retreats for individuals, couples, and leaders. You can find out more about Rohini’s work on her website, rohiniross.com.