by Kelsey Hamlin
Washington Hall was filled with a sea of diverse faces Sunday night, showing up to raise money and collect winter items for protectors in North Dakota.
The state has a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) being built through Native American, Sioux tribal land. It’s also set to carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. Currently, the protectors are still working to stop the pipeline, but continue to be slammed with legal fees in the process.
Protectors also face stingrays, long range acoustic devices, rubber bullets, pepper spray, beanbags, and dogs even though their protests have been non-violent, not allowing any weapons on site. Demonstrations have included creating prayer circles, riding horseback, chaining themselves to equipment — sometimes graffiting it — and floating logs across a river to block access to the pipeline.
Last night’s event was mostly organized by women. Rachel Heaton, of the Muckleshoot Nation, said such fundraisers are needed.
“Because a lot of us can’t be on the front lines,” Heaton noted. Travel is a privilege in that it requires money not everyone can afford. But she’ll be on her third trip back to North Dakota. “It’s not just about Standing Rock. It’s about what’s going on here.”
Multiple speakers pointed out that Washington State itself has Native Americans who are struggling against systemic issues, and big companies that threaten the environment and their land.
The Chinook and the Duwamish are still not legally recognized as tribes by the federal government, preventing them from being able to keep any tribal artifacts found on land historically belonging to their ancestors.
Companies initially wanted to send North Dakota oil to Seattle and Mount Vernon, Wash., but those plans fizzled thanks largely to the protests of locally based Native Americans and environmentalists.
Matt Remle, of the Lakota tribe and a frequent Seattle organizer, noted that there’s a coal export terminal on Quinault land in Grays Harbor.
He also referenced the city of Seattle’s pulling out of a $100 million bond deal with Wells Fargo — also one of 33 banks supporting the DAPL — for having created fake accounts.
Remle was one of many at the report-back. Annette Klapstein spoke, having participated in an orchestrated moment of activism across three pipelines to literally turn their nozzles off. The sites of the concurrent action were Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Washington. Klapstein currently faces felony charges, as do eight other activists who assisted in the endeavor.
She said the Native American fight, especially the one taking place at Standing Rock, is one that pits the forces of life against “political, economic systems that threaten our lives on earth.”
Klapstein urged people who are older, retired, and possess the means to go join the protectors.
“I believe it is my job as an older person to put my body on the line for future generations,” she said. “As an old, white person, it’s unlikely the police will shoot me, so I’m at less of a risk than people of color.”
Lennée Reid performed some incredible poetry, and sold her children’s books for which all proceeds went to protectors in North Dakota.
“If you’re thinking about going, go,” Reid said. “It’s a life-changing experience.”
Reid and many Native Americans refer to the multiple oil pipelines as black snakes.
“It has to include everyone to work and kill these snakes that are everywhere,” she said. “Water is life, it’s Flint, it’s Ferguson, it’s all one oppression.”
There were music performances by mostly local Seattle artists:
- Jamil Sulamain (one of his song performances was “Dear White People”)
- Gabriel Teodros (his bandcamp can be found here)
- Raz Simone (read up on him and listen to his music here)
- Savage Family (music found here)
- Julie C (her music can be found on soundcloud and purchased on bandcamp)
- Olmeca (From California, his Facebook keeps you updated)
- Suntonio Bandanaz (local hip hop artist whose music can be found here)
- Bypolar (one of the Block The Bunker activists who raps in his free time)
One of Bypolar’s lyrics went “American dreams are nightmares of greed.”
Patricia Allen, one of the core women organizers, expressed that music was the main form of communication that night because she finds hip hop has always united movements.
“It comes from so much of our response to oppression,” Allen said. “Music has always been there and we need to utilise these tools.”
She emphasized that the movement to protect water, and all other movements, need to recognize the humanity between people. Allen insisted these movements cannot be won alone.
“At the end of the day, what’s going on in North Dakota is not okay,” Heaton said. “What’s happening to Native Americans for the past 500 years is not okay.”
Kelsey Hamlin is a reporter with South Seattle Emerald, and interned with the publication this summer. She also works with various Seattle publications. Currently, Hamlin is a University of Washington student, and the President of the UW Chapter’s Society of Professional Journalists. She had a second internship with KCTS 9 this summer, and finished an internship with The Seattle Times in March as an Olympia legislative reporter. Hamlin is a journalism major at the University of Washington with interdisciplinary Honors, and a minor in Law, Societies & Justice. See her other work on her website, or find her on Twitter @ItsKelseyHamlin.
Featured image by David Calder