Thousands of Native Americans rallied early Friday at the Government Accountability Office, location of the Army Corps of Engineers Headquaters, in a protest of its final approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Over 150 tribes came from around the country, some joining from Canada and Mexico. Their message to the Trump administration: the fight for their sovereignty, protection of their land and water, against the Dakota Access Pipeline project is not over.
From the Army Corps of Engineers they marched through the city with youth and women leading the way. They carried a giant banner reading “Recongize Indigenous Peoples Rights, We Exist, We Resist, We Rise”. Their drums echoed loudly through the concrete canyons of office buildings. Many carried colorful banners and streamers reading ‘Water is Life’ and ‘Mni Wiconi’.
They approached the Trump International Hotel as driving sleet and cold wind pushed them, and 25 tribal members quickly set up a large Tipi on the sidewalk near the front doors, while a dozen stayed inside it. It was up in minutes. Many more indigenous people and allies occupied and blocked Pennsylvania Avenue. Others carried a replica black snake symbolizing the Dakota Access pipeline project they have been protesting over the last year. Department of Homeland Security police had set up barricades but there were no arrests.
Chants of “We stand with Standing Rock” and “Water is life” echoed loudly against the Bell Tower of the Trump Hotel. Youth climbed atop a bus and raised fists of victory.
About a half hour later they left the Trump Hotel and marched to the White House which is nearby. Tribe elders spoke to the thousands who had joined them there after the march. The sleet had ended by then and the sun poked through the clouds just as Standing Rock Sioux Tribal leader, Dave Archambault II, called for unity.
“The youth are the ones that started this movement and they are the ones that I base all my decisions on,” said Archambault. He called for unity amidst controversy that the Last Child camp had been disbanded and was largely respected.
Archambault also called for the Trump Administration to respect the rights of indigenous People. “We deserve to be included, we deserve to be respected, we deserve to have our basic rights considered when corporations seek to carry out the actions that can potentially harm our citizens,” he said.
Archambault said that the Standing Rock uprising was a new direction for the environmental movement which was started by youth who stood up to a corporation building on their treaty land. “This movement marks a turning point in history, not only for our tribe but for all tribes and for America as well,” he said.
Hundreds of tribes have rallied for autonomy and sovereignty in Washington DC this week at Tipi Camp. Friday’s march was a culmination of the week of environmental actions.
Though the Dakota Access Pipeline has been completed and may begin transporting Bakken crude as soon as next week, there is a new resistance growing in a campaign to divest from the banks that have financed the pipeline.
“The heart of this movement is now the heart of the resistance, said Archambault.