Women protesters confront the “Black Snake”

November 28, 2016

Leonard Klein reports from Standing Rock on one of the actions by water protectors.

MARCHING BEHIND a "Defend the Sacred" banner and the white flags of peace, more than 150 women of the Oceti Sakowin Camp faced off against Morton County sheriffs on Sunday, November 27.

The women of the White Buffalo camp and their supporters marched onto the State Highway 1806 bridge to defiantly sing and chant in the face of the militarized police presence.

The bridge still shows the signs of past conflicts with police. Charred sleeping bags, blankets and clothing were bulldozed into a line before four columns of concrete barriers were set up on the bridge, blocking traffic in both directions.

Police have erected a roadblock of razor wire, barriers and armored vehicles on the north bank to guard what water protectors refer to as the "Black Snake": the Dakota Access Pipeline still under construction.

A White Buffalo spokeswoman, standing atop the barricades, yelled at the massed law enforcement agents and the government they represent: "We want to say to you that we are dying. You promised to protect us and our waters. And now our water is being poisoned."

Women from the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock march to protect Native sovereignty
Women from the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock march to protect Native sovereignty

The protesters sang and performed a circle dance, with Native women in the center and an interracial mix of non-Native women in the outer rings.

Most of the marchers were wearing white skirts over layers of winter clothing, whipped in the 20 miles per hour winds. A call-and-response chant went up "Mni Wiconi!" ("Water is Life!") as one spokeswoman walked the 10 yards up to the razor wire.

Morton County officials told the spokeswoman and marchers to clear the bridge because it wasn't safe--although the only genuine threat in the area is the pipeline being built to run under the Missouri River, threatening a drinking water source for millions of people downstream.

The marchers chanted, "Respect our waters! Respect our land! Respect our people! Honor our treaties!" while police camera crews and surveillance drones filmed the action. As time passed, other chants, more familiar from struggles outside Standing Rock, were added, such as, "What do you do when water is under attack? Stand up, fight back!"

Another speaker reminded those assembled of the large numbers of Native women who have gone missing in the U.S.--some are feared kidnapped and forced into prostitution near the tar sands oil work camps where the poisonous cargo intended for the DAPL originates.

After 45 minutes, the White Buffalo women turned and marched off the bridge, singing their resolution to stop the pipeline and protect the water.

As the march showed, the movement against DAPL connects a wide range of issues, from U.S. government disregard for Native sovereignty, to sexism and violence against women, to environmental destruction. Stopping the DAPL would be one positive step in eliminating these other ills whose cause is the huge profits from oil extraction.

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