Sacred Battles Meet in LA by Stephanie MushrushTweet
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 The fight to protect water, sacred sites, and treaty rights was brought to the ancestral Tongva and Kumeyaay lands of Los Angeles and San Diego, at four separate events this past weekend in the Southern California area. The events came about after members of the LA and San Diego Indigenous communities, American Indian Movement – Southern California, and allies, saw a need for support and solidarity for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. Standing Rock and allies have occupied Cannon Ball, ND – reportedly growing from 30 to over 3,000 in just a few weeks – in order to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline. Known as the “DAPL,” the pipeline threatens the tribe’s and residents’ water supply, sacred sites, as well as treaty rights.
The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with a community benefit at Self-Help Graphics and Art, featuring music, art, and speakers, raising over $2300 in funds for the Standing Rock’s Camp of the Sacred Stones. Hosted by the LA Indigenous community and AIM So Cal, powerful musical acts included the Spirit Lake Drum, Aztlan Underground, Maya Jupiter, Cempoalli, and others. Guest speakers included Carrie Sage Curley (San Carlos Apache, Apache Stronghold), George Funmaker (Dakota, Ho-Chunk), Shannon Rivers (Akimel O’otham), and Kalama O Ka Aina (Hawaii, Mauna Kea protector). Attendees stood proudly as a group of powwow dancers danced to the American Indian Movement Song, sang by Spirit Lake Drum. A large banner reading “IDLE NO MORE” graced the stage, with a man eagerly holding it up for the full venue to see.
The excitement level was high, with many surprised at the large crowd and level of support, and the diversity of tribal and allied representation present. Aside from the stage and information tables, Curley painted in the back venue area. Invited by the LA Indigenous community to present about her involvement with Apache Stronghold, Curley informed the crowd through her speech and art. She worked diligently on an image of a young Apache woman at her sunrise dance held at Oak Flat, on a canvas intended to represent the Save Oak Flat movement throughout the weekend.
“There was a huge range of ages here tonight. It made me feel good to be amongst the elders, the youth – to see the kids running around,” stated Curley. “My painting of Nizhoni at her sunrise dance said more about the movement than anything. I wanted to bring awareness to the Cali community through my art.”
The event drew members of the LA Indigenous community, including Native couture fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail, as well as allies, including Asher Underwood of Indie.Genius.Media. “We came in solidarity to help get the message clear that we stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This event is very powerful and inspiring, with so many nations and peoples representing from across Los Angeles,” he said.
The #NoDAPL weekend agenda continued on Saturday morning, with a large rally and march that closed the infamous intersection of Hollywood and Highland. The “Enough is Enough”
event was organized by California for Progress, featuring speakers and performers from various organizations; the event also served as a fundraiser and support for the Standing Rock’s fight against the DAPL. American actress Shailene Woodley joined the roster of speakers, along with Funmaker, Curley, and Cody Hall and Anthony Rogers-Wright, both of whom flew in from Standing Rock camps for the weekend’s events with messages about the fight against the DAPL. The crowd marched to the Hollywood CNN Building, across from which, AIM So Cal members held a large banner that read “#NoDAPL,” while – in front of a line of police officers and their cars, fancy shawl dancer, Cheyenne Phoenix danced on the street to Funmaker singing the AIM Song.
Later, Hall shared with the crowd his views on the resistance. “This is a humanity issue; this involves all of us. It just happens to be that it’s on our land. But, we stood together.” Cheers came from the crowd, after Hall reported word that there are over 3,500 people at the camp. “In our Lakota way of life, it’s called that warrior spirit… If you are somehow able to leave from here and at some point, stand with us, and be right there at that camp, you are bringing that warrior spirit. Because we, as indigenous people, come from warrior blood,” Hall explained. “We’re in this for the long haul. We have over 50 people that have promised and committed that they are going to stay with us through the winter months. People have said, ‘We’re in this for the long haul.’”
The show of solidarity continued through the evening, again outside of the CNN Building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Elders, community members, bird singers crowded the sidewalks and walkway surrounding the building with signs of protest. “Stand With Standing Rock!” “Make America Native Again!” “Stop the Black Snake!” “No More Stolen Land! No More Stolen Sisters!” “Protect Sacred Sites!” The smell of sage wafted through the crowd in the hazy scene of city dusk. A group gathered around the speakers on the corner; another group chanted, “Water is Life!” enticing honks from passing cars. Kalama O Ka Aina captured the crowd, with her words on solidarity in protecting the earth. “Part of the oppression of the First Nations is intrinsically tied to the extraction and destruction of the planet as we know it… And how are we going to live? How are we going to eat? How are we going to support our future generations?”
The LA event ended with California bird songs, handshakes and gratitude for connection. “I’m so thankful for the people that work hard to bring the LA Native community together to fight for our rights, the land, and our water! This weekend was a beautiful thing to witness!” exclaimed Mashkawizii Ikwe, Anishinaabe. Another attendee, documentary filmmaker, Jahnny Lee, shared his calling to join the resistance in order to capture the historic fight; Lee has set up a Go Fund Me in order to raise funds for his filming in Cannon Ball, ND.
On Sunday, community members, allies, and groups gathered outside the NBC Building at San Diego’s Horton Plaza. Miss Kumeyaay Nation stood in her regalia and crown, holding a protest sign that read, “#NoDAPL.” The Viejas Bird Singers shared songs with dancers and attendees, under the warm sun. Event organizer, Shaun Cook (Tlingit, Thunderbird Wolf Clan) stated, “We hold these rallies for solidarity, and for those that can’t make it to the camps. We are raising awareness on what is going to happen when the pipeline ruptures. It will destroy all things that live around the river, creeks, streams, and the people.” Summarizing the weekend, Cook stated, “We’re standing in unity as one heart and one mind, to stand up for Mother Earth – for all people and all living things. We are the seventh generation.”
The Los Angeles and San Diego Indigenous community groups of AIM and Idle No More, and other groups, report that they are planning to continue solidarity events for Standing Rock and other resistance movements around Indian Country, including issues such as freeing Leonard Peltier; in the days since the weekend, various cities have begun planning for simultaneous community gatherings for September 9, 2016.
By Stephanie Mushrush, Washoe/Filipina