By Imam Khalid Griggs
What appeared to be an inevitable violent confrontation on December 5 between over 2,000 US military veterans, the Standing Rock Sioux and their thousands of allies, aligned against local and county law enforcement agents from ten states and the paid goons of Energy Transfer Partners was averted when the Department of the Army announced that it would order the Army Corps of Engineers to find an alternative route for the North Dakota Access Pipeline. The ND Access Pipeline threatened sacred burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe while potentially contaminating the Missouri River, the drinking water source for the tribe and millions of residents downstream.
Starting in August when the Oceti Sakowin Campsite was established as a base for protestors, a diverse coalition came together of Native American activists, environmentalists, human rights activists, faith community leaders, including Muslim representation from Coalition of Indigenous Muslims, Muslim Arc, M Power Change, ICNA Council for Social Justice, and other individual supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux. Even without the benefit of national media attention reporting this classic David (Standing Rock Sioux) versus Goliath (Big Oil) standoff, Standing Rock became nothing short of a flashpoint for global activism. Close to 500 tribes from throughout the Western Hemisphere sent representatives to buttress the efforts of their indigenous brothers and sisters in Standing Rock. Rallies popped up across continental United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia decrying the insensitive, racist, heavy-handed treatment that was once again being meted out to the continent’s first inhabitants.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to not allow further construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline across or near the Standing Rock Reservation or underneath the Missouri River is a major victory not only for the tribe, its allies, and water protectors, but it may be an all-too-seldom beckon of light heralding the latest installment of the triumph of sincere, committed, organized resistance of oppressed people against seemingly invincible odds stitched together by forces of corruption and greed with the backing of State power. “How often has a small force defeated a large force,” is a question posed by the Qur’an. Belief coupled with righteous deeds are guaranteed to triumph in the end. In a twist of irony, First Nation people in North Dakota have fought for and won the right to proclaim their sovereignty over their land against the lecherous forces of Big Oil similar to their past struggles against encroachment and seizure of their land by railroad companies. The dwellers in the Oceti Sakowin Campsite are hunkering down for the long haul in the harsh North Dakota winter. They need our physical support now more than ever. The President-elect has little more than one month before taking office. To date, Native Americans have escaped his unfiltered, demeaning characterizations. One of the many conflicts of interest that the 45th President is immersed in is the fact that he has a financial interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline. He will have the authority to reverse the decision of the Department of the Army when he takes office and reignite the showdown. We must remain vigilant. People worldwide are saying the name “Standing Rock” while looking at their own circumstances and pondering over the possibilities for disciplined, organized resistance against forces of oppression in their own backyards. Celebrate this victory tonight, but in the morning, organize.