LaDonna Brave Bull Allard addressed an intimate group of students and community members in Allen Hall’s Unit One on March 14th . She was invited to the University for the 7th Annual Ecofeminist Summit as our keynote lecturer. From the outset of her hour long speech, she is insistent that the role of activist was thrust upon her — that she is no more than an adoring grandmother. Allard proceeds to relate the establishment and beginnings of Sacred Stone, the first erected resistance camp on her private land at the Standing Rock Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, and birthplace of the #NoDAPL movement (Oceti Sakowin and Rosebud camps would soon follow). This grandmother made the initial call for assistance in fighting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, via Facebook live feed, in April of 2016. She admits that for 50 people to heed her call, she would have been overjoyed. From here on she commands the room. The audience stares transfixed. At the height of their power, the Standing Rock resistance camps housed more than 12,000 protesters, all engaged in constant non-violent protest against a militarized police force and DAPL security. Outside of the camps, millions more were engaged in the fight through the boycott and divestment from DAPL investors.
Camp resistance concluded at the end of February, with the forced eviction of Sacred Stone Camp. LaDonna’s immediate future is rife with courtroom battles, but Standing Rock refuses to fade into memory. Successful Defund DAPL campaigns are proliferating across the nation. San Francisco and Seattle have successfully divested billions of dollars from the banks and corporations investing in the successful establishment of the pipeline. This trend is spreading well beyond our borders as well. The Sami parliament of Norway, the political conduit of the indigenous Sami people, successfully lobbied the Norwegian government into divesting its pension fund from the DAPL project. On a personal level, thousands of Americans have been consciously managing their accounts so as to handicap all entities involved with the Dakota Access Pipelines; this includes banks. Indeed, many have withdrawn accounts from complicit banks, like Citibank and Wells Fargo, preferring to keep their money in credit unions and local banks as a means of exercising their political voices. On some level, this is what LaDonna and #NoDAPL were aiming to do: create a culture that understands the coordinated efforts between the state and the private sector to exploit the environment and the people that inhabit it.
Bernie Sanders’ heroic campaign for the Democratic presidential candidacy elucidated many to the fact that corporate lobbying seeks to benefit a small minority while placing undue burdens on average citizens. What’s more is that for the first time, this outspoken rhetoric was coming from a highly visible politician, a strong contender for our nation’s top office, no less. For many, Sanders’ eventual loss was accompanied by feelings of cynical disillusion and betrayal amplified tenfold by the abysmal conduct of the Democratic National Committee. The back end of Bernie’s campaign coincided with the peak of the #NoDAPL movement, which provided evidence of outrageous abuses by Energy Transfer Partners and the state. The state enabling the completion of the pipeline, ignoring the millions organized and speaking out against it doesn’t scream democracy.
All of this was enough for some to take drastic action.
Image credit to Women’s Resource Center UIUC, used in this meet and greet.