"We're Still Here": Thanksgiving Day Sees Powerful Dakota Access Resistance
'Given what we are currently fighting against, Thanksgiving is not really a celebration for us,' says Dallas Goldtooth
On a day imbued with painful significance for many Native Americans, hundreds of people demonstrated against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota and beyond on Thursday.
From a protest about 300-strong in Mandan, North Dakota, to an attempt by Indigenous water protectors to reclaim sacred sites threatened by the pipeline, to a solidarity rally in Portland, Oregon—plus widespread calls for donations to Standing Rock to mark Thanksgiving Day—resistance to the 1,172-mile "black snake" remained fierce on what some refer to as the Day of Mourning.
"Given what we are currently fighting against, Thanksgiving is not really a celebration for us," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network told ABC News on Thursday.
"It's a day to remember what the real story is and acknowledge that we're still here, and our ancestors fought and died for us to be here," added Tara Houska, the national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, who told the Guardian that she was planning to spend Thanksgiving with friends who live on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
In one action, water protectors erected a small wooden bridge and used canoes to reclaim a foothold on Turtle Island, a former Native American burial site, while law enforcement watched from above, "ready with tear gas canisters and pepper ball guns," according to independent media outlet Unicorn Riot.
Indigenous Rising Media provided footage:
One participant described the action as a "big step for this movement":
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) November 24, 2016
Meanwhile, in Mandan, hundreds of water protectors set up a makeshift Thanksgiving feast featuring a decapitated pig's head—and were met by a heavy police presence.
According to the Bismarck Tribune:
Pipeline opponents carried signs and banners, one which read "No pilgrims, no pipeline." Some protesters shouted, "Shame on you, North Dakota!"
"They come at us with violence, we come back with prayer," said Jamey Reil, of Virginia, who was referring to the clash between police and protesters Sunday night at Backwater Bridge.
Back at Standing Rock on Thursday evening, celebrity activists Jane Fonda and Shaleine Woodley served a Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of people.
The Los Angeles Times wrote:
Outside Standing Rock High School, 210 turkeys were being roasted, 42 at a time above coals on a pedal-powered spit. Inside the high school gymnasium, Standing Rock Warrior team banners and anti-pipeline slogans were affixed to the walls. Fonda greeted families and local fans. "This is historic, what's happening here," she said amid a deluge of requests for selfies. "I think it's important that we show solidarity."
Fonda has arranged to deliver 20 Mongolian yurts and 2,700 pounds of bison meat from Colorado to the camps. "I think it's important for people, if they can help, to stand with Standing Rock."
And NBC News reported on another protest effort—a call by Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, for others to join in an economic boycott in the Bismarck-Mandan area.
In a letter to tribal leaders and supporters released Tuesday, Frazier wrote:
In September, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council voted unanimously to divest all tribal money from Bismarck and Mandan and asked that tribe members not spend any money in these cities. We are now asking that ALL people who oppose this pipeline join us.
These communities have led the violent law enforcement efforts against out people and we will not support them financially. If these communities will not listen to our reasoned pleas for justice and fairness, we must speak the only language they seem to have understood throughout the entire DAPL project: MONEY. I look forward to your cooperation in this effort and I call on all people who oppose violence against unarmed and peaceful citizens to #BoycottBismarck."
Notably, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) took Thanksgiving Day to call for President Barack Obama and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reroute the pipeline.
"Today is Thanksgiving and I cannot help but reflect on our history in these United States and how often it has not lived up to the rosy picture of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal in friendly company that I saw in textbooks as a child," he said in a statement.
"Today, I am calling on the President and the Army Corps of Engineers to reroute the pipeline," Heinrich continued. "No pipeline is worth more than the respect we hold for our Native American neighbors. No pipeline is worth more than the clean water that we all depend on. This pipeline is not worth the life of a single protester."
"There is no excuse for the brutality we've seen in recent days and it should not be rewarded."