BY MANISHA GANGULY AND CAROLINA HIDALGO
Twenty seven protesters were arrested yesterday while blockading construction of a pipeline over sacred native burial ground. The arrests by riot police on the eve of Indigenous People’s Day, were meant to disperse crowds, which had peacefully assembled to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP).
Led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of other tribes from across the U.S., Canada and Latin America, the arrests were live-streamed on Facebook, with the group calling for solidarity, stating, “Flood the White House with phone calls and demand Obama to act and enforce his previous declaration of no construction. With state police protecting Dakota Access Pipeline his words are meaningless.”
Indigenous People’s Day, or Columbus Day as it is popularly celebrated in the United States, officially celebrates the anniversary of the explorer Christopher Columbus‘ arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. The commemoration has been the source of controversy over America’s history of genocide linked to Columbus’ first landing in Bahamas. Spanish-speaking communities have decided not honour the holiday first celebrated in 1937, due to enslavement and mass murders of thousands of native and indigenous groups triggered by the the Italian explorer’s arrival to the continent. Nearly 13 percent of Mexico and Latin America’s population consist of indigenous people, according to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
“The 12th of October, as only few dates do, marks a milestone in a five century’s debate on two narratives. The one about the conquest and colonization of a new continent, and the one of the indigenous people indicating that what really happened in 1492 is that Caribbean natives discovered a lost european explorer. That is the historical truth.” explains Pedro Cayuqueo, journalist specialising in indigenous affairs and author of Solo por ser indios (Just for Being Indian).
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned an injunction filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, to halt the $3.8 billion construction.The 1,172-mile DAP is supposed to carry 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day through South Dakota and Iowa to another pipeline in Patoka, Ill. “What happened in North Dakota shows that the conquest of 1492 still exists today in form of multinational corporations, which keep having indigenous lands as zones of sacrifice” Cayuqueo added.
On Twitter, the hashtag #IndigenousPeoplesDay has been trending since September 14th, when the Anadarko City Council voted on September 14th to change ‘Columbus Day’ to ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
According to a study by the international human rights organization Global Witness, nearly two-thirds of the 185 activists murdered last year were Indigenous activists. The protest at DAP, initiated by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has seen a recent outpouring of support from members of tribal communities around the world. The latest tribe to arrive at the protest site in solidarity was a Sami group from Norway on Friday, joining the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Lummi Nation, Puyallup Tribe, Yakama Nation, Nisqually Indian Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Hoh Tribe and others.