Sep 1, 2016 - Waniya Goes Live: #NoDAPL by Matt Remle
On December 5th, 1890 Tatanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull) was assassinated at his home by Indian police. Paranoid Indian Agent James McLaughlin, who feared the Ghost Dance that had swept across the Northern Plains, sent in Indian police to arrest Sitting Bull having wrongly believed that Sitting Bull was behind the dance. At 6 AM, Indian Police entered Sitting Bull’s home attempting to arrest him when a scuffle ensued resulting in the assassination of the Great Hunkpapa Lakota leader.
Following the assassination, Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) and 350 others attempted to seek refuge with Red Cloud at Pine Ridge fearing attack from the Calvary. On December 28th, the Calvary caught and captured them. On December 29th, over 300 Lakota women, elders, men and children would massacred at Wounded Knee Creek.
“1890 was on my mind. We could have been killed there and they would have told the story of what happened. I wanted to protect my people. That’s why I went live.” Waniya Locke
Waniya Locke (Ahtna Dene, Dakota, Lakota and Anishinaabe) has been a fierce fighter in the efforts to stop the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which, if built, would pose a serious threat to the traditional homelands, waters, cultural, sacred and burial sites of the Oceti Sakowin, the Lakota and Dakota Nations.
In discussing the potential impacts from the pipeline she states, “We stand in opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). We believe that the DAPL has great potential to cause harm to the great people of this nation whose water and livelihood depends on the Missouri River. We do not need oil to live, but we do need water, and water is a human right and not a privilege. Those of us living in the Dakotas are deeply concerned about the construction of this pipeline and we feel that we have not had our needs taken into account before deciding to construct this pipeline.”
The Dakota Access pipeline, is a 1,168-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that would carry Bakken crude from western North Dakota to a distribution hub Illinois on route for refinement in the Gulf Coast. The Dakota Access pipeline would transport as much as 450,000 barrels of oil per day with a future capacity of 570,000 barrels per day.
Before her live streams from the front lines in the fight against the pipeline were watched by people from around the world, she played an active role in numerous efforts in opposing the pipeline.
On March 25th, she helped organize the “Run for Water” along with Bobbi Three Legs. Runners, walkers, and horseback riders took to an 11 mile stretch, starting from the Wakpala district on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, to raise awareness to the immediate threat the Dakota Access Pipeline would have on the Missouri River.
Youth state “People over pipelines!” At Run for Water event. Photo provided by Waniya Locke
“Wakpala is the second smallest district on Standing Rock, but they were the first community to stand in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline. We are descendants of Pizi (Gall). He was Sitting Bull’s right hand man.” Waniya Locke
On the chilly morning of April 1st, hundreds gathered in Ft. Yates on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation to show opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Riders on horseback, which Waniya helped coordinate, set out from the tribal administration building traveling dozens of miles to the mouth of the Cannonball River to where the projected pipeline will go through.
Warriors from the Oceti Sakowin prepare to travel to Spirit Camp. Photo by Waniya Locke
After reaching Cannonball, a Spiritual Camp was set up at the point the pipeline crosses the river. The Camp of the Sacred Stones was born.
On April 28th, she helped with the 500-mile “Run for Your Life” rely run from Cannonball, ND to the district office of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Omaha, NE.
Youth asking Army Corp to reject permit application for the Dakota Access pipeline
Waniya says that the runs were special to her, because the efforts came from the grassroots, the peoples living in the impacted communities and from the youth. In mid-July she would help give advice to the youth as they departed on their epic cross-country run from North Dakota to Washington DC in a 2,000 mile effort to bring awareness of the pipeline to President Obama.
“There are many people involved in these efforts, I am just one of many.” Waniya Locke
In late July, Waniya came to and stayed at the camp where she received training on filming and taking photos in preparation to document possible incidents.
On July 26th, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s approved most of the final permits necessary to allow for the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Their decision came despite Energy Transfer having done no Environmental Impact Statement and not engaging in consultation with the Tribes.
“On August 10th, there was just 45 of us at the camp when workers showed up escorted by armed private security guards from two firms. I asked them ‘why do you have weapons, we are unarmed,’ and they replied ‘for everybody’s security,’ I thought about 1890 and how we could all be killed here today. We were surrounded by all these white men with guns. I wanted to protect my people so I went live.” Waniya Locke
Waniya’s videos would go viral bringing images of the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline to the world.
Front line warriors during the first week
She goes on to share that on that first day that at one point there were just two people blocking the workers telling them that they were not welcome there. “At one point the workers got in their cars like they were leaving. The guy I was with said he had a feeling the workers were up to something, so we followed them. Up the road, the workers tried to gain access to the site through another road. I was sent back to get other men to stop the workers.”
Over the next couple days and weeks the camp numbers quickly rose to hundreds and eventually thousands. Waniya was able to bring live footage of the mass arrests that were taking place.
As typical with most Native issues, the media, and mainstream media in particular, was absent. Which, perhaps, was for the best as media has long played an integral role in demonizing and mis-representation Native peoples.
In the lead up to the assassination of Sitting Bull and the Wounded Knee Massacre, local and national news outlets would run sensationalized, and blatantly false, articles about “Crazed Red Skins on the War Path” to draw on the racist fears of its mostly white readers.
L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz, as an editor for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, openly called for extermination of the Native peoples “The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirits broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are.”
This racist trend would rear its ugly head soon after the arrests started when local papers would start running sensationalized and blatantly false articles about “protestors having weapons and pipe bombs” and that “criminal activitywas on the rise at the camp” the latter of which was hilariously rebuked by a local prosecutor who stated that the only “criminal activity” to take place in the area was exactly 1 speeding ticket.
As we have seen in other recent social movement, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, social media and technology has played an integral and invaluable role in helping communities to take control and possession of their narrative and broadcast it to the world unfiltered and live.
“The fight against Dakota Access Pipeline can only be successful if we have your voice, and the voices of as many as possible against this potentially devastating pipeline. We have people working on the ground in reservations throughout North and South Dakota, but we need as many voices as possible.” Waniya Locke
Waniya went live and now the whole world is watching.
See Waniya’s videos here
by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle- Lakota)