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By Winona LaDuke

For the past seven years, the Anishinaabe people have been facing the largest tar sands pipeline project in North America. We still are. In these dying moments of the fossil fuel industry, Water Protectors stand, prepared for yet another battle for the water, wild rice and future of all. We face Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, and the third largest corporation in Canada. We face it unafraid and eyes wide open, for indeed we see the future.

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Anishinaabe economist and writer Winona LaDuke identifies two types of economies, grounded in different ways of seeing. Speaking in Vancouver recently, she characterized one as an "extreme extractive economy" fed by exploitation of people and nature. The second is a "regenerative economy" based on an understanding of the land and our relationship to it.

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This Thanksgiving, I'm going to Standing Rock with a delegation of more than 50 people from across the U.S. to cook and serve dinner for 500 Water Protectors, as a small way to give back to Native Americans on our national day of thanks.

Looking back on history, Native Americans saved the lives of newly arrived Europeans in what is now Massachusetts by sharing their harvest in the winter of 1620. The Wampanoag, who had lived in the region for some 12,000 years, taught the settlers to grow native crops. The Wampanoag were not the only tribe to be generous. In the earliest days, many tribes throughout the Americas helped new settlers survive.

The foods the natives shared with settlers were not just growing wild. They were cultivated over many generations by native people who had a deep connection to the land. Today, many vegetables and fruits in our diet were first cultivated by Native Americans, including foods found on the Thanksgiving table—potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, pumpkin and cranberry. The turkey many enjoy on Thanksgiving Day was first domesticated by Native Americans.

The idyllic traditional story of the first Thanksgiving in which the settlers shared with the native people in 1621 is largely a myth. Tragically and shamefully, what followed the European arrival was 500 years of genocide and betrayal of Native Americans. To this day, treaties are being broken for the benefit of white expansionism. In North Dakota, survivors of the genocide are taking a stand against the construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, planned to carry highly flammable crude oil under the Missouri River, endangering the drinking water for millions downstream and threatening sacred burial grounds. If successful in eventually reaching refineries on the Gulf and East Coasts, the project will become the source of carbon emissions equivalent to nearly 30 coal plants every year for the next 20-30 years.

The Standing Rock Sioux, joined by native people belonging to some 300 tribes from across the Americas, are camped along the Missouri river to protect their water, land and way of life. Rather than protestors, the natives call themselves Protectors and are risking their own safety and comfort to non-violently stand up to corporate control and the militarism of armed police in riot gear. The Protectors say they are working for a healthy future for all of our children and grandchildren, including those of the pipeline workers and police officers.

Native leader Dallas Goldtooth explains, "The best part of the work we do is that it's not what we're fighting against but what we're fighting for. We advocate for localized, small-scale renewable energy production. The same with food production, localized and sustainable."

I'm going to Standing Rock because I share this vision for our future. A localized economy will not only decrease the power of large corporations and cut down on the carbons of long distance shipping, but will also make our communities more resilience and self-reliant. At the same time, decentralizing our economy spreads business ownership and wealth more broadly and creates meaningful local jobs, building a more just and sustainable economy.

I'm going to Standing Rock in hopes that this stand begins a new era in American history when the rights and sovereignty of indigenous people are defended, as well as the rights of nature. As our country reels in the aftermath of a divisive election, now is the time for all people to stand together and become the America that we are meant to be.

I'm going to Standing Rock because the native people are spiritually evolved with a deep reverence for nature. In observing their leadership, I recognize the values needed to move our country forward—respect for Mother Earth and all species, cooperation, generosity, non-violence, humility and love.

I'm going to Standing Rock to give back to Native Americans for first cultivating many foods that nourish me and for helping the early settlers survive, including my own ancestors who were aided by the Wampanoag in Massachusetts and the Lenape in Pennsylvania.

I'm going to Standing Rock because I want to tell the story of the Protectors' courage and love of the land to inspire other communities to defend our watersheds—to stop fracking, drilling, pipelines, refineries and all fossil fuel infrastructure that is leading toward the end of life on Earth as we know it. Standing Rock is a call to all of us to protect what we love.

I'm going to Standing Rock because our civilization, addicted to oil and the wasteful life-style it supports, is racing blindly toward our own extinction by climate chaos and toxicity. Yet again, Native Americans are leading us toward our survival.

A Lakota prophecy speaks of a Black Snake crossing the land, bringing with it destruction and devastation. The Black Snake is now inching toward the Missouri River. The Black Snake is a monster driven by greed, destroying all of life in its path and even devouring the children of tomorrow.

I'm going to Standing Rock because I hear a voice saying, "Follow the Indians. They know the way."

Judy Wicks is an author, activist and entrepreneur from Philadelphia who is best known as founder, in 1983, of the White Dog Cafe, a pioneer in the local food movement. For 15 years, Judy held an annual Native American Thanksgiving Dinner to which she invited leaders of the Lenape tribe, first people of the region and gave thanks for the many foods in our diet first cultivated by natives.

Judy is leading the delegation to Standing Rock along with Jodie Evans of Code Pink and chef Jeremy Stanton of Fire Roasting Caterers in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Jeremy will be cooking 30 pasture-raised turkeys from Bill Niman's ranch in California, BN Ranch, on spits over an over fire, along with vegetables cooked in caste iron pots. Ben & Jerry's is donating ice cream for dessert. Actress and long time activist Jane Fonda will be among those serving the meal. She is also contributing five butchered bison and four Mongolian yurts to the camp. The dinner is called the Water Protectors Community Appreciation Dinner and will be held on Nov. 24 at the Standing Rock Community School on the reservation.

The delegation is also helping to build an all-weather straw bale community center for tribal meetings at Standing Rock organized by Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth, Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network and Bob Gough of Intertribal COUP. Contributions are being collected here.

Funds for the Wopila Feast are being collected here.

By Winona LaDuke

It's 2016 and the weight of American corporate interests has come to the Missouri River, the Mother River. This time, instead of the Seventh Cavalry or the Indian police dispatched to assassinate Sitting Bull, it is Enbridge and Dakota Access Pipeline.

In mid-August, Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II was arrested by state police, along with 27 others, for opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. In the meantime, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple called for more police support.

Wiyaka Eagleman has been at the encampment since April and is from one of the seven Sioux council fire tribes set up there.Desiree Kane

Every major pipeline project in North America must cross indigenous lands, Indian Country. That is a problem.

The road west of Fargo is rarely taken. In fact, most Americans just fly over North Dakota, never seeing it.

Let me take you there.

My head clears as I drive. My destination is the homeland of the Hunkpapa Oceti, Standing Rock Reservation. It is early evening, the moon full. If you close your eyes, you can remember the 50 million buffalo—the single largest migratory herd in the world. The pounding of their hooves would vibrate the Earth, make the grass grow.

There were once 250 species of grass. Today the buffalo are gone, replaced by 28 million cattle, which require grain, water and hay. Many of the fields are now in a single GMO crop, full of so many pesticides that the monarch butterflies are dying off. But in my memory, the old world remains.

If you drive long enough, you come to the Missouri River.

Called Mnisose, a great swirling river, by the Lakota, she is a force to be reckoned with. She is breathtaking. "The Missouri River has a fixed place in the history and mythology" of the Lakota and other Indigenous nations of the Northern Plains, author Dakota Goodhouse would explain.

In the time before Sitting Bull, the Missouri River was the epicenter of northern agriculture, the river bed so fertile. The territory was known as the fertile crescent of North America. That was then, before the treaties that reduced the Lakota land base. But the Missouri remained in the treaty—the last treaty of 1868 used the Missouri as a boundary.

Then came the theft of land by the U.S. government and the taking of the Black Hills in 1877, in part as retaliation against Sitting Bull's victory at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In a time prior to Black Lives Matter or Native Lives Matter, great leaders like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were assassinated at the hands of police.

One truth: The Lakota people have survived much.

Forced into the reservation life, the Lakota attempted to stabilize their society, until the dams came. The 1944 Pick Sloan project flooded out the Missouri River tribes, taking the best bottom lands from the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, the Lakota and Dakota. More than 200,000 acres on the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River reservations in South Dakota were flooded by the Oahe Dam itself, forcing not only relocation, but a loss of the Lakota world. The Garrison, Oahe and Fort Randall dams created a reservoir that eliminated 90 percent of timber and 75 percent of wildlife on the reservations.

That is how a people are made poor.

Today, well over two thirds of the population of Standing Rock is below the poverty level—and the land and Mother River are what remains, a constant, for the people. That is what is threatened today.

Enbridge and partners are preparing to drill through the riverbed. The pipeline has been permitted in sections from the west and from the east. The northern portion was moved away from the water supply of Bismarck, into the watershed of Standing Rock. That was unfortunate for the Lakota.

Despite Lakota legal and regulatory objections, the Dakota Access Pipeline construction began in May 2016. If finished it will snake through North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, where it will link to a 774-mile pipeline to Nederland, Texas.

More than 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil will pass through the pipeline daily, along with 245,100 metric tons of carbon daily—enough carbon to combust the planet to oblivion.

The pipeline would span 200 water crossings and in North Dakota alone would pass through 33 historical and archeological sites. Enbridge just bought the Dakota Access pipeline, noting that the proposed Sandpiper route—Minnesota's 640,000 barrel per day Bakken line—is now three years behind schedule.

The route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In late July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Standing Rock claims the project violates federal and treaty law. Standing Rock also filed an intervention at the United Nations, in coordination with the International Indian Treaty Council.

As Chairman Archambault explained in a New York Times story:

"The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation supported more protection of the tribe's cultural heritage, but the Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners turned a blind eye to our rights. The first draft of the company's assessment of the planned route through our treaty and ancestral lands did not even mention our tribe.

"The Dakota Access pipeline was fast-tracked from Day 1 using the Nationwide Permit No. 12 process, which grants exemption from environmental reviews required by the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by treating the pipeline as a series of small construction sites.

"Without closer scrutiny, the proposal breezed through the four state processes."

In Iowa where work on the pipeline is underway, three fires erupted causing heavy damage to equipment and an estimated $1 million in damages. Investigators suspect arson, according to Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty. In October 2015, three Iowa farmers sued Dakota Access LLC and the Iowa Utilities Board in an attempt to prevent the use of eminent domain on their properties to construct the pipeline.

The health of the Missouri River has been taken for granted.

Dammed in the Pick Sloan Dam projects, each project increases contamination and reduces her health. Today, the Missouri is the seventh most polluted river in the country. Agricultural run-off and now fracking have contaminated the river. My sister fished a gar out of the river, a giant prehistoric fish, only to find it covered with tumors.

Here's just one case: In a January 2015 spill, saltwater contamination from a massive pipeline spill reached the Missouri River. In the baffling way of state and federal agencies, North Dakota's Health Director David Glatt did not expect harm to wildlife or drinking water supplies because the water was diluted. The saying is: "The solution to pollution is dilution." That is convenient, but not true.

Blacktail Creek and the Little Muddy River were contaminated after nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater with elevated levels of chloride contamination. All was diluted. But then there was that gar fish with the tumors.

There are pipelines everywhere and fewer than 150 Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) pipeline inspectors in the whole country.

And now comes the risk from oil.

The pipeline companies generally discuss a 99 percent safety record, but studies have found that to be grossly inaccurate. A former Scientific American Editor, Trudy Bell, reports that PHMSA data from 2001 to 2011 suggest the average pipeline "has a 57% probability of experiencing a major leak, with consequences over the $l million range in a ten year period."

Not good odds.

At Standing Rock, as the number of protesters grew from 200 to 2000, state law enforcement decided to put up a safety checkpoint and rerouted traffic on Highway 1806 from Bismarck to Standing Rock, hoping to dissuade people from coming and put the squeeze on Standing Rock's Prairie Knights Casino, which is served by that road.

We just drove around; the scenic route is beautiful. And as supporters surge in numbers, the casino hotel and restaurants are full.

While North Dakota seeks to punish the Lakota, Chairman Archambault expresses concerns for everyone:

From the New York Times: "I am here to advise anyone that will listen that the Dakota Access Pipeline project is harmful. It will not be just harmful to my people but its intent and construction will harm the water in the Missouri River, which is one of the cleanest and safest river tributaries left in the Unit States. To poison the water is to poison the substance of life. Everything that moves must have water. How can we talk about and knowingly poison water?"

"Resistance" sign at the site of the drill pad back in May.Desiree Kane

In the meantime, North Dakota Gov. Dalrymple announced a state of emergency, making additional state resources available "to manage public safety risks associated with the ongoing protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline." He may have exceeded his scope of authority and violated civil and human rights to water.

Chairman Archambault's interpretation: "Perhaps only in North Dakota, where oil tycoons wine and dine elected officials and where the governor, Jack Dalrymple, serves as an adviser to the Trump campaign, would state and county governments act as the armed enforcement for corporate interests."

There are a lot of people at Standing Rock today who remember their history and the long standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973. In fact, some of those in Standing Rock today were there in 1973 at Wounded Knee, a similar battle for dignity and the future of a nation.

I am not sure how badly North Dakota wants this pipeline. If there is to be a battle over the pipeline, it will be here. For a people with nothing else but a land and a river, I would not bet against them.

Thousands of Native Americans have joined Standing Rock Sioux tribe members in their protest against the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline.Crow Nation News

The great Lakota leader Mathew King once said, "The only thing sadder than an Indian who is not free, is an Indian who does not remember what it is to be free."

The Standing Rock protest camp represents that struggle for freedom and the future of a people. All of us. If I ask the question "What would Sitting Bull do?"—the answer is pretty clear. He would remind me what he said 150 years ago: "Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we can make for our children."

The time for that is now.

This article was originally published by LA Progressive and reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

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