Lakeland Public Television
October 19, 2017

The Resistance is Creative

Eliza Racine

The Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) may be operational, but the voices opposing it and the rest of the fossil fuel industry remain loud and clear with no sign of stopping anytime soon. In the months since the closing of the Oceti Sakowin resistance camps, water protectors’ creative endeavors continue to gain momentum and anti-pipeline activists continue to take on bold new forms of creative resistance to protest other dangerous “black snake” projects weaving their way through the North American continent.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Over the last year, anti-pipeline activists have embraced a new strategy to oppose the oil projects threatening their communities: organizing in the direct path of a pipeline. Farmers, landowners, and indigenous activists have made numerous headlines in their creative approaches to standing up to the fossil fuel industry.

The Keystone XL pipeline, revived by President Donald Trump, came up against resistance back in July when a Nebraska rancher, Bob Allpress, installed solar panels in the middle of the proposed route. This demonstration became known as “Solar XL”: a movement to get Nebraskan landowners and activists to deliberately build solar panels—one surefire solution to the demand for dirty energy—in order to obstruct the proposed path of the “zombie” pipeline.

Building something in the path of a pipeline isn’t restricted to Keystone XL, however. In Pennsylvania, nuns of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ constructed a chapel on the proposed route of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project. In March 2016, a Massachusetts house builder, Will Elwell, set up a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin directly in the way of the Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct natural gas line. In British Columbia, Secwepemc activists began a movement called “The Tiny House Warriors”, which will build ten houses along the path of the proposed Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline—a project that never obtained free, prior and informed consent to construct through tribal territory.

While such campaigns protest the construction of pipelines that are not yet operational, activism against oil and tar sands has increased into communities already living with fuel infrastructure. One example is the “Walk the Line” protest that was organized in Schererville, Indiana on Sept. 30, to bring awareness to the location of an Enbridge underground tar sands oil pipeline. The project runs under private and public property—including four schools—without any proper markers of its location and little information to the public on the hazardous materials it carries. Organizer John Halstead plans for another walk for nearby communities in the spring.

Songs of Resistance

Art, specifically music, has long played a role in protest movements; this is especially true for the movement against oil pipelines. For water protectors, the spirit of Oceti lives on through an archive of music containing songs and footage from late 2016 to early 2017. It highlights the massive creative undertaking of many different musicians during the #NoDAPL movement, varying from traditional songs sung on the frontline to hip hop and rap.

Anyone familiar with the #NoDAPL movement has likely heard Nahko and Medicine for the People’s “Love Letters to God,” or Prolific the Rapper’s Black Snakes, which both have music videos filmed at camp. One #NoDAPL anthem, “Stand Up/ Stand N Rock #NoDAPL”, gained the recognition of MTV’s Video Music Awards earlier this year, being nominated for a new category, the Best ‘Fight Against the System’ award. The song was created by Spencer and Zack Battiest and Taboo from The Black Eyed Peas, who brought together multiple indigenous rappers to collaborate on the track.

Many water protectors and anti-pipeline activists alike continue to craft music that promotes indigenous sovereignty and sends a signal of resistance to our fossil fuel administration. The artists and musicians will surely carry the sacred fire to the next pipeline battles, wherever they may be.

Prayer in Practice

For indigenous peoples all over Turtle Island, pipelines and other oil projects represent a unique threat to life, liberty, and all that is sacred. In the aftermath of Donald Trump and his oil cabal, indigenous communities have been reimagining and revamping their methods of resistance in deeply meaningful ways.

Back in August, a group of 10 Ojibwe youth initiated a three-week canoeing trip, called Paddle to Protect, along 250 miles of the Mississippi River to protest Enbridge’s proposed replacement of Line 3. If approved, Line 3 would be built through tribal lands and pose a threat to water, sacred wild rice beds, and tribal sovereignty. By paddling through the delicate ecosystem of the Minnesota headwaters, indigenous youth combined creativity with tradition to bring light to this issue.

“When this land gets poisoned, it hurts our people and it hurts our culture,” said Rose Whipple, a high school student and member of Youth Climate Intervenors, in an interview with John Collins of Bill Moyers and Company. “And this pipeline is going through the homelands of many indigenous people—through treaty territories in Canada, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s affecting people that don’t have much, poor communities that can’t fight back, but we’re trying our hardest.”

Indigenous voices are at the forefront of the movement to move money away from banks funding pipelines as well. A delegation of indigenous women—including LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, Jackie Fielder, Michelle Cook, Tara Houska and Osprey Orielle Lake—just completed a tour through Norway, Germany and Switzerland to urge banks to divest from pipeline companies that violate the indigenous people’s right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

On Oct. 23, more than 90 banks, including those supporting the fossil fuel industry, will meet in São Paulo, Brazil to discuss climate change and FPIC. In response, the organization Mazaska Talks is planning three days of global action called Divest the Globe to call all supporters to protest in any way, from staging sit-ins to setting up art galleries to raise awareness on the continuing violence against indigenous communities and the environment.

Divestment campaigns against the banks supporting DAPL and other pipeline projects have resulted in over $84 million in personal divestments and city divestments of over $4 billion. While oil companies may use bodily violence to silence opposition, they cannot control how people move their money or what activists spread and organize through social media.

The movement to protect water and ensure climate justice shows no signs of dying out soon, no matter how much the fossil fuel industry wants the public to depend on dirty, nonrenewable resources. So long as the injustice of fossil fuel extraction continues to ravage the world, the opposition will never be silenced.