Tafa Dr Esther Cowley-Malcolm and why she is 'Standing with Standing Rock'
Today while Americans celebrate 'Thanksgiving', many Native Americans remain united at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and protect the Missouri River & sacred sites of the Sioux Tribe.
Native Americans have seen this kind of drama unfold for centuries and have long marked Thanksgiving as a day of remembrance rather than a celebration. Native American Jaqueline Keeler who is a member of the Dakota Sioux Tribe says they don't think of it as a National Holiday the way the rest of the country does "Thanksgiving tells a story that is convenient for Americans but it’s a celebration of our survival. I recognize it as a chance for my family to come together as survivors, pretty much in defiance.”
As freelance writer David Denis Jr observed sarcastically "Make America Great Again means we get to celebrate Thanksgiving while Native Americans are getting their land taken from them.... Just like the good old days"
Many indigenous people from around the world have travelled to Standing Rock to show their support and stand in solidarity with the indigenous people of America.
Indigenous Sami people from Norway standing with the Sioux Tribe.
Samoa Planet published a great article by the Rev Pausa Kaio Thompsen who is based in New York, on why he went to Standing Rock.
We wrote here why it's important for us as Pacific Island people to care about what is happening at Standing Rock and how the environmental damage directly impacts us.
Children playing in flooded areas of Kiribati
And now Tafa Dr Esther Malcolm-Cowley shares with us her first hand experience staying in Standing Rock, her family ties to the Native Americans and why she travelled all the way from New Zealand to 'Stand with Standing Rock'
"My cousins are my Dads sisters children from Pago (Pago Pago, American Samoa) who have lived here since they were in College. My cousin who I am travelling with is a retired police officer. I am here because I want to be here standing in support and solidarity with my cousins children who have indigenous blood ties to this land and are protecting their rights to clean water, unpolluted environment and further destruction and oppression by corporate America.
I am also a Quaker and part of our testimonies are peace, social justice, equality, simplicity and respecting the integrity of all creation .... culture, people, plants, animals and our natural world.
Indigenous people around the world are sick and tired of seeing what they have cared for long before their countries were invaded, raped and pillaged by colonisation and the greed of white invaders. They deserve to be left to live in peace and harmony with clean water and a pristine environment. Their people have suffered enough.
So instead of thinking about it I am here in person to hug my cousins and say to them I stand with you, I love you and totally understand the motivation of your people in making a courageous stand and I stand with you in support and solidarity.
Esther (Middle) with her Samoan/Navajo family
I want my son and grandchild to see that we have a democratic right to do this to have courage to never be fearful about speaking out against injustice, bullying and racism. If we allowed fear to stop us where would we be as a person, society country.
My cousin Joe married Renae, a Navajo and they will meet us with their two sons - they live on an Indian reservation where his wifes family own a lot of land there in Arizona. They have been supplying the camp with meat from the ranch there. We are taking Tins of pisupo for them lol! We will have a small family tent village next door to the Navajo tents where many of Renaes kin will be. Hearing what is happening at the camp makes me very sad as I know the people are peaceful and non violent.
Camp at Standing Rock
First day at Standing Rock.
It is very cold here but once my cousin and his family arrived from Arizona we were warm. We woke up to them lighting the fire outdoors and preparing a breakfast of Navajo bread cooked on the fire, fried potatoes, chick peas and cooked ham.
My impressions of Standing Rock.
A sense of awe at all the organisations and human power of global unity and the camaraderie among all the indigenous and global friends from around the world who are here in support and solidarity. One of the things we were reminded about at the briefing by the indigenous people are the qualities of generosity, humility, kindness, respect etc ... Qualities I can relate to as a Samoan.
There was an emphasis in the briefing on the Camps major principles of Peace and non-violence and for total adherence by the people at the camp to this. Some of the stories from two young Indian men I heard today at the briefing was powerful in terms of not retaliating with violence, maintaining your dignity, respecting the voice of peace and non-violence. The message of peace and non- violence is highlighted everywhere. It is evident in the interactions I have witnessed within the camp.
There are people here from all over the world, huge diversity, socially and economically and politically many are people who care about our environment. So many people who have given firewood, food, clothes, and the volunteers have been going round in a truck asking people who needs clothes, bedding, food etc ... This issue has brought together 300 different tribes together in unity for the first time since the 1800's. Huge significance!
They have a big communal tent and the food is freely cooked for anyone who needs food. All the tribes have their own areas and people are welcome to camp with them if they want to or camp anywhere else in the campsite. They have medical tents and a Childcare Learning Centre has been opened. People volunteer their services. There are about 1200 plus people in the camp and more and more people are driving into the site all the time. They have prayer ceremonies every morning where people gather at the water edge.
People gathering for prayer by the river
The weather forecast is for snow tomorrow. Today it has been freezing but so far I have survived although I took the offer of another sleeping bag when the volunteers came round with ones that had been donated, even though I already have 4 layers of clothes on. However, I am warmed deeply in my heart by the love and peace and unity that is in this camp even though we see on the hills the pipes and the drilling machines"
Tafa Dr Esther Cowley-Malcolm is currently still staying at Standing Rock with her family and we may have more updates from her as she sends them through.