This past weekend, Toronto Indigenous people and allies marched in solidarity with Standing Rock. Vv Magazine’s Patty Hails was there to cover the action.
A group working to raise awareness and provide support for the water protectors in Standing Rock, ND held a rally in Toronto on Saturday. It’s estimated that thousands were in attendance.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been in a standoff with Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) over its plans to run a pipeline under the Tribe’s primary drinking water source and through a sacred burial grounds since 2014. The issue has since gained national recognition, and things escalated over the Labour Day long weekend when the company’s private security unleashed attack dogs on water protectors.
In the days and weeks that followed, tribe members were violently attacked and they, along with reporters and celebrities, were strip searched, humiliated and arrested.
Algonquin elder Patti Pettigrew was outraged when she saw images of violence on social media. She channeled her outrage into action and became involved in Standing Rock’s movement to protect the Missouri River from the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I don’t think that as a First Nations woman you can live on this land without being political. We have to be. And so you know, when I saw that happening, I just said enough’s enough,” Pettigrew said.
Systemic injustices against Indigenous peoples in North America are commonplace. There are a vast many here at home.
“We have reserves across the country that are under boil water advisories. We have reserves across the country that you can’t drink the water,” Pettigrew said.
Health Canada reports that there are currently 132 water advisories (boil water advisories and “do not consume” advisories) across the country, not counting the province of British Columbia.
“There are advisories that have been in place for like 25 years. So when you think about it, there are children growing up who’ve never known that there’s clean water. And that, on this continent, for Native people is not acceptable. It’s simply not acceptable,” Pettigrew said.
Keynote speaker Suzanne Smoke, a longtime activist in the American Indian movement called on Prime Minister Trudeau to keep his promises regarding Truth and Reconciliation and environmental protections.
“I hope Mr. Prime Minister Trudeau knows that we are going to stand against the pipelines here. As an Indigenous woman in this country standing with my daughter I can tell you that his father, with the Indian Act, failed us as Indigenous people,” Smoke said in her speech.
The Canadian federal government has historically done little if anything to reduce the number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which has occurred at an alarming rate for decades.
Many Canadians expected this to change under Trudeau, whose cabinet initiated an inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which critics say falls short.
“As an Indigenous woman today in 2016 in support of the over 4,000 Missing and Murdered and Taken Indigenous women and our brothers as well, they are failing us as a federal government. They are not here for us. They are not helping us,” Smoke said, adding that the fact that Indigenous peoples are “obstacles to the land and water” makes them targets of institutional violence.
Smoke drew parallels between corporate treatment of the earth and violence against women—a metaphor she expanded on by reading a poem she said her sister wrote.
Traditional singers, drummers, and jingle dress dancers provided a soundtrack for the march. I walked and talked with some of them. Patty Krawec is Anishinaabe kwe from Lac Seul First Nation. She said this movement is part of something bigger.
“This is not just Standing Rock. This is Barriere Lake. This is the Unist’ot’en. This is Stop Alton Gas. This is Burnaby Mountain. This is Stand with Lelu. This is all of those places, and all of those places where we’re not being heard, and where our land is continuing to be stolen,” Krawec said. She continued, “This is not over. Not by a longshot.”
Tantoo Cardinal, a well known Indigenous Canadian tv and film actress, agreed that the attention Standing Rock has garnered is significant.
“It means that people are finally waking up, and that’s a very good thing,” Cardinal said.
Do you support those fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline? Why or why not? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.