A recent wave of support seems to be reviving spirits in Standing Rock, North Dakota, as pipeline protests continue.
Since Aug. 22, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, along with many protestors, have stood their ground protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline — a 1,172-mile pipeline that will pump oil dangerously close to the tribe’s water supply. Despite the fact that protestors have by and large remained peaceful "protectors of the water," authorities have injured many and arrested hundreds.
But the world’s been watching, and people across the globe refuse to just sit by and witness the inhumane treatment these protestors are experiencing simply for trying to protect their land.
Support is being sent in many forms — from the tangible to the virtual.
In just the past week, hundreds of thousands of people on Facebook "checked in" to Standing Rock to help protect protestors from possibly being tracked by law enforcement. A crowdfunding campaign to help with legal and camp costs that had a goal of $5,000 just broke $1 million. Actor Mark Ruffalo delivered solar panels to the protest grounds so they had access to sustainable energy.
One of the more resonant reinforcements to date, however, was a powerful, visual message of solidarity from the Māori — the indigenous people of New Zealand.
Māori people performing the haka at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. Photo via Tylee Hudson/Facebook, used with permission.
These Māori people are doing a haka — a dance and war cry traditionally performed on the battlefield, but it is often done today as an expression of pride, unity, and strength. According to Tylee Hudson who shot the video, this group was doing an Utaina haka, which specifically symbolizes working together for the greater good.
She said she hopes the haka will remind her indigenous brethren that they’re not alone in this fight. The video has more than 900,000 views. Other similar videos, like one of a man performing a haka on the front lines at Standing Rock, have started popping up too.
The message of unity across tribes has been sent loud and clear.
And thanks to Facebook groups like Haka Standing with Standing Rock, with its over 27,000 members, that message will continue to reverberate around the world. As their haka declares in its first line, "The challenge has been laid down." Now it’s time for others to pick up the gauntlet and join the fight.
But the haka is more than just a battle cry and more than just a powerful expression of solidarity. It’s a whole culture of people standing behind a cause that’s all too familiar to them.
Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images.
The Māori tribes, like so many tribes in America and around the world, have experienced oppression akin to what the Sioux are going through at Standing Rock.
Hudson is a member of the Ngati Awa and Tūhoe Māori tribes, which he says are no strangers to government pushback.
"Our role as kaitiaki, or guardians of the land, and tino rangatiratanga, the right to self-determination, is forever contested and challenged by the government," Hudson wrote in an email. Māori tribes often debate settlements with the government over land and rights, a common tale for most indigenous people.
It’s one reason so many different indigenous tribes have joined the Sioux in their fight at Standing Rock. They, more than most, know what it’s like to have their rights ignored and ultimately overthrown.
There is, however, a sliver of hope in all of this unfair treatment.
Efforts made by the Māori recently resulted in a settlement with the New Zealand government wherein human rights were granted to the Te Urewera rainforest. It’s just one example of a government recognizing the importance of the land not only to the people living on it, but to the world as a whole.
It will be much tougher for the Sioux to gain ground against Energy Transfer Partners, the private company funding the pipeline. But, they’ve got an army of support that is fed up with this injustice and growing stronger by the day. In fact, a $2.5 million donation was reportedly just made by an anonymous donor to release everyone who’s been arrested at Standing Rock.
There are many ways you too can show support without heading to the front lines.
You can sign this Change.org petition to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. You can donate to the Sacred Stone legal defense fund, as the legal battle over DAPL is ongoing. You can also send specific, much needed supplies to the campground. Or join the Haka Standing with Standing Rock group to find out more and to enjoy the performative spirit of those uploading their own haka to show support.
The Sioux, like the Māori, and indigenous people all over the world, are fighting a war they’ve been fighting since colonization of their lands began. It’s the fight to be treated fairly rather than pushed aside as they have been for centuries.
It’s time for all of us, indigenous people or not, to stand behind them in any way we can, and shout to the powers that be with all our might — this is not how you treat people, is not how you treat the land, and this is not how you treat a culture.
There are few battles that warrant impassioned war cries more.
Watch the full Māori haka here: