Milwaukee, WI (PT) – The one-night showing of Standing Rock: Take Me From The River attracted dozens to Riverwest’s Linneman’s Inn last month. Directed by Denny Rauen, the award winning documentary showcased footage shot during the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from 2016-2017. Speakers included Native elders now pushing against the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline in northern Wisconsin. They’re message was simple: Wni Miconi, Lakota for “water is life.”
Audience members were greeted with an acoustic guitar performance by Michael Bootzkin. The film introduces him with the slide “Bootz On The Ground,” as Bootzkin shot some of its most dramatic footage. Like other Native people, Bootzkin identifies not as a protester, but a water protector.
Michael Bootzkin Performing During The Premiere.
Photo by: Isiah Holmes
Water is sacred to many Native American tribes. Revered as a giver of life, it’s sometimes called ‘the first medicine’ In their eyes, they’re not protesting in any commonly understood sense. They’re mobilizing to protect their water.
Standing Rock amounted to one of the most dramatic episodes of civil resistance in recent memory. Dozens of tribes and countless advocates of all nationalities arrived to provide support. The Sioux Nation felt the pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partner’s, endangered the Cannonball River. The Cannonball is a major water source for the local Native American community. The Sioux also showed DAPL’s construction violated 19th century treaty’s.
Beatrice Menase Kwe Jackson, a Native elder who attended the premiere, spoke to the crowd about life in the camps. Each dawn was greeted with ceremonial dances and songs by the various tribes. “We’d walk to that beautiful Cannonball River, and we’d sing as we go.” The camps became hubs of intense prayer.
Beatrice Menanse Kwe Jackson speaks about DAPL.
Photo by: Isiah Holmes
North Dakota’s governor activated an EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact), to call in law enforcement nationwide. EMAC is usually intended to allow states to call in assistance from one another during natural disasters, not protests. It allowed militarized police to spend those months systematically clearing out demonstrations.
“We were sending our warriors, our water protectors off. Not to fight, but to protect our water.” Says Menase Kwe Jackson. They were confronted by both an army of law enforcement, and armed contractors. Unlicensed DAPL security were filmed by Democracy Now unleashing attack dogs on a crowd. Another company, TigerSwan, conducted sophisticated counter-intelligence and surveillance operations against activists. Law enforcement were filmed blasting a crowd with a water cannon in sub-zero temperatures. A young lady was badly maimed by a concussion grenade and hundreds of people, including journalists, were arrested.
Jackson recalls: “After we did the water ceremony, the men go to the front line. And I would go to the tent and wait, and they’d come back and tell us who was injured. Who was arrested, (and) what had happened.” She remembered with a glint of joy. “Our children riding their beautiful horses…” Then that joy evaporated. “…Seeing those rubber bullets knocking them off of their horses.” Jackson said they would, “Pray for that water to forgive us. We realized that was our job as water protectors.”
While the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance ended with the arrival of the Trump Administration, the movement hasn’t ended. The premiere on October 25th both remembered DAPL, and discussed Enbridge Line 5. This vast 645 mile pipeline begins in Superior Wisconsin, and ends in Ontario Canada. Tribes in both Wisconsin and Michigan have already voiced concerns that Enbridge Line 5 is a danger to the Great Lakes.
Numerous water protectors in the audience on the 25th plan to encamp against Enbridge Line 5. The main camp, using the Anishinaabek attributed to Ojibwe, Odawa, Pottawatomie, and other tribes, is in the town of Levering in Northern Michigan. Menase Kwe Jackson explained herself and many others are now preparing these new camps for winter. She stresses, however, that engaging with elected officials is paramount.
“We have to work with our governors,” she told the crowd, “our states.” That night’s ending message was that inaction isn’t an option. “50 years from now, will you be asked ‘what did you do for Standing Rock? How did you keep this water?” She emphasizes recent shifts in the climate, some contributing to heavy rains in Milwaukee. “Our work is not over.”