In my culture, there are many stories. There are stories of shape shifting, of magic, of war. Of harmony, and of victory. One of these stories is that of the condor and the eagle.
The story is actually a prophecy, that tells us when the eagle, the bird of the north, flies with the condor, the bird of the south; we will see harmony. As an indigenous person from the south, living in the so-called-united-states without documentation, I have searched for harmony all of my life. Crossing the border meant fighting for my survival, but it also meant saying goodbye to my home, and to my people. I have not been back to my country for fourteen years, in this time I have missed funerals and birthdays, dances and weddings, trips to the home of my grandfather, meals and rice cleaning with my grandmother; I cheer for my people from afar, as I hear stories not just from my family, but also from the frontlines: stories of tribes overcoming machines and fighting the hungry monster that is colonization.
And now here I am, at the Standing Rock camp on occupied Sioux land, a stranger to these plains, and somehow feeling more at home than I have felt in a while. Just as borders are unnatural and artificial structures on stolen land, pipelines are unnatural bloodlines to the machines that seek to destroy this land, and though at a first glance the fight on Standing Rock seems to be outside of our reach, it has been through living here that I have realized that we fly closer to harmony everyday.
As an undocumented person, displacement from my homeland is part of my trauma, but as an indigenous person, it is my duty to fight for this land. This sets up a parallel, as we fight colonization on occupied land that we ourselves are occupying. It is important that we remember that just as gentrification is based on occupation and the redefining of a neighborhood, settler-colonialism is based on the ongoing occupation and exploitation of a territory, not just of the so-called-united-states, but also of the North and of the South. As gentrification pushes cultures out of cities, we must remember that these cities are occupations themselves, and that even in the reservations or land that has been labeled as “treaty”, colonialism will continue to push it’s own agenda. This has become apparent by the most recent attacks on this land, in which we have witnessed first hand politicians and businessmen draw lines only where they will benefit them. Like the US/Mexico border, which was drawn to benefit the wealthy and push out the poor, regardless of their immigration status or place of birth; the North Dakota Access Pipeline has been drawn to go through the places with the least likely paths of resistance, in this case the native community of Standing Rock.
It is because of this, that it’s important to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock, not just for this land, but for our land as well. As indigenous and undocumented people, our bodies have undergone trauma by the hands of borders and erasure and violence through a white supremacist police state; an attack on our water is a violent attack on our bodies too, and the connections between land and people make this even clearer: If the pipeline breaks, we will be united not just by culture, but also by a scar left by the oil industry.
It was the late Berta Caceres, an indigenous activist from Honduras, who said: “Wake up humankind! We must shake our conscious free from the rapacious capitalism, racism, and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction.” An attack on mother earth is an attack on our bodies, and these attacks are coming from the same capitalistic society that drew borders between our communities, and decided who were citizens and who were not, as well as who lived and who were murdered. It is when we impose ownership onto land, and people, that we then also debate whether to poison our rivers or not. It is when we discard culture and tradition, that we usurp our buried elders and turn a blind eye to the connections between the government of this land and the poisoning of our bodies. Just as borders and pipelines are connected, so are occupations and displacement. Just as some communities are being pushed out for profit, others are kept in and murdered, so through these conditions of trauma, how do we heal our communities? How do we keep fighting in a world that constantly seeks to kill us?
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Decolonization is a hard process, yet as the condor and the eagle fly together towards a more harmonious world, so can we. It will not happen overnight, but it is already happening around us, through Standing Rock and many other occupations happening around land destruction sites worldwide. Land defense means defending the land as it is, not as humankind has shaped it to be; it means honoring that land belongs to not one individual, but many people, many nations, and many different cultures. Having clean air and water, having land able to sustain our crops and our families is tied to our survival, as well as the reason why many communities migrate when it is not available. Land defense also means building with our local communities, sharing stories as well as listening. There are elders on these lands that remember what it was like before the machines came to the plains, before the mountains were hollow, before they stepped on our sacred sites; and it is through listening to these stories that we are reminded of how alike our struggles are.
We crossed these borders in order to survive, and we will stop this pipeline in order to survive again. From the north to the south, we must unite for our continent, as all rivers are connected, and all people are too. I am so humbled to be present in such a beautiful ongoing action, here in so-called-north-dakota. Witnessing travelers and locals, tribes from many nations unite together, reminds me of home in ways that I had thought were lost to me.
I truly believe that this is what is stopping this pipeline, not just our actions, but our love for one another, and our ability to overcome our differences and our distances, in order to come together to fight for our future. From a stolen territory, to another stolen territory, the fight for indigenous lives continues and the closer that we bring our communities, the more that the condor and the eagle fly towards each other. Our lives and our struggles will always be different, but as we continue to collaborate in solidarity, our communities continue to grow, and so does our ability to resist together.
This is all of our fight. And this is all of our water.
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[Feature Image: A group of people are standing outside on a sidewalk holding a banner that says, WATER IS LIFE NO DAPL SOLIDARITY. Source: Peg Hunter]