Nick Estes on Indigenous Resistance | On Civil Society | March 11, 2019

Nick Estes on Indigenous Resistance | On Civil Society | March 11, 2019

Nick Estes: Our entire social and biological
reproduction relied on what they call the free goods of nature in these fertile river
bottom lands along Mni Sose, the Missouri River, what we call the Missouri River. And so when they destroyed our land, they
were targeting, they were trying to break our relations, not just with the water and
the land itself but amongst our own people. [music] Hayden King: With this book, you’ve written
a thoroughly compelling and accessible text on the Dakota Access Pipeline and the resistance
to it with a tremendous amount of context to situate that particular episode in American
history. And along the way, you’ve theorized indigenous
resistance, solidarity and an indigenous future, something that we can strive toward. So, it is, on all counts, I think, a significant
accomplishment. But for those of you who may not have been
paying attention to what was happening in Indian country, south to the Medicine Line,
over the past couple of years, maybe it’s helpful for you to start by just giving us
a brief overview of the central focus of this book and the resistance at Standing Rock to
the Dakota Access Pipeline. [foreign language] NE: Before I answer the questions, I just
wanna say thank you for that introduction and for being a wonderful host. The book really begins situated in a scene
at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and it actually begins in Thanksgiving. I don’t know if there’s… I don’t think there’s an equivalent here in
Canada. But it’s a fairly colonial and racist holiday,
and it was a very fairly and racist colonial holiday the day that I talk about in November
of 2016. And it was at the tail end of the mass resistance
that was happening and the more spectacular confrontations with the police. We went to a mall in Bismarck, North Dakota,
and at that time, there wasn’t a lot of media coverage because a lot of the coverage was
happening at Standing Rock itself. And the reason why Bismarck is important is
because, in 2014, the Army Corps of Engineers rerouted the pipeline path north of Bismarck,
and upriver from Bismarck to south of Bismarck, downriver, so that it would, according to
their own reports, disproportionately affect the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, as if
there’s ever a proportionate amount of risk that one can take. NE: Bismarck, North Dakota is a white-dominated
border town. It’s actually the capital city of North Dakota,
and it’s 90% white. Whereas Sioux County, as it’s known to the
state, or the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, is around 84% Native. So, it was a clear case of environmental racism,
but not only that, it was part of a long history of trespass, whether it’s through the fur
trade, or the railroads, and now the present day North American oil boom. And so we went to the mall in Bismarck on
Black Friday, which is a traditional consumer holiday in the United States, to hold a prayer
circle and to really remind the City of Bismarck that we were still here as water protectors. And we were met with armed guards who had
AR-15s. And not only that, they had mobilized the
sentiments, the anti-indigenous sentiments of the settler population of Bismarck, who
began chanting all kinds of racist slurs that’s usually only chanted at basketball games,
but this time for a protest. And so we were forming a prayer circle, and
33 people were brutalized and arrested that day. It didn’t really make any headlines, but it
was really indicative of the confrontation that was taking place at Standing Rock. NE: Standing Rock wasn’t just an event, it
wasn’t just a moment. It was a movement within a moment, but it
was also a moment within a larger movement of history. The Standing Rock themselves are Hunkpapa
and Yanktonai, Lakota and Dakota, respectively, who are descendants of several instantiations
of genocide, whether it was the US-Dakota War of 1862, to the more infamous, or famous,
Plains Wars of the 1850s, ’60s and ’70s. So, this was generations in the making. And as the Oceti Sakowin, the Great Sioux
Nation or the Nation of the Seven Council Fires, the last time we had reunified was
in a time of war… And some would say that war has never ended. But the last time we had reunified was to
resist settler encroachment, and so it was at Standing Rock, at the confluence of the
Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, where we reunited our fires again. And it was about 150 years in the making. That’s the story I’m really trying to tell,
is the Oceti Sakowin side of it. There were a lot of allies from other indigenous
nations that really made that case for the 21st Century indigenous movement. However, it was our movement. And so that’s really what I’m foregrounding
in this book. HK: The book takes place a couple of thousand
kilometers southwest of here. But there’s so much that resonated with me
when I was reading the book, whether it was the comparisons to, I don’t know, Moor, which
I think were just so explicit throughout the text, or whether it’s resistance to pipelines,
which is actually our present and likely future in Canada. And you were writing it from a very personal
place and I found myself… Not to say that I’ve been on the frontlines
of every struggle in Canada, but it resonated with me because so much of what you were talking
about me and my colleagues and cousins have gone through and will likely continue to go
through. But in this particular case, it was quite
personal for you, you were working on something else, this exploded, you decided to get down
there, organize. NE: Yeah. The origins of this particular resistance
movement began much earlier in 2007 as a trace in the book with the Keystone XL Pipeline,
which is now back on the table. The Obama administration had approved and
constructed three-quarters of the leg of the Keystone XL, but not the one that crossed
the international border with Canada, which connects the tar sands to our nation. These forces had already been galvanized around
that, and it was really an extension of it. And my personal story in it is because I couldn’t
avoid not being a part of it. I had to be a part of it as indigenous people
were political by default, just by the mere fact that we will always be in the way of
settlement and always be in the way of capitalist development. NE: And in this particular case… I was born and raised in a place called Chamberlain,
South Dakota. I don’t know if the movie, The Revenant, was
big here, but that movie took place, or ended actually, in the town that I was born and
raised in. And one of the scenes, the final scene of
the movie, when Hugh Glass, who was actually a real historical figure, even though the
movie itself is very fictionalized, dances with bears… It didn’t really work out for him that well. He arrives at this fur trade fort, where Native
women and children are being bought and sold outside by French and English traders and
American traders. And that really was the first man camp. It was a transient body of laborers who are
working in an extractive industry and primarily exchanging the skins of fur, but also the
flesh of women and children. And so when we say things like man camps today,
that’s really the extension of these permanent settlements that became border towns, that
became the white-dominated settlements that ring our reservations, where the same patterns
of sexual violence and exploitation still persist. NE: And so we are just fighting the next iteration
of that, ’cause it was the boom, or the penetration of capitalism into our territories began through
the targeting of our relations, our kinship relations, with the Animal Nations, whether
it was the beaver and then it became the buffalo. And then it also seeped its way or penetrated
its way into our kinship systems. And I use a lot of indigenous feminist methodologies
to understand this because our elders, such as Faith Spotted Eagle and Madonna Thunderhawk,
have been making these arguments for decades, saying that every iteration of capitalist
development and a boom always brings a new round not just of dispossession of the land
but also a new round of sexual violence and exploitation of indigenous women. And when capitalism leaves, they leave capitalists
behind. When the patriarchs come, they leave patriarchs
behind. And so this is the struggle that we’re confronting
not just the Keystone XL Pipeline or the Dakota Access Pipeline, but the long endurance of
the settler colonial structures, and especially as they manifest in places like border towns
and the places that I grew up. NE: So, for me, this is a personal story because
I grew up on that river, I was told the story of that river, the origin stories of that
river. My hometown, which I’ve never been able to
see, which is the capital of our nation, is currently underwater in that river. And so my grandparents fought the construction
of the dams in the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, and now, our generation is fighting
the new rounds of dispossession with the creation of the oil pipelines. HK: It’s like a genocide old Groundhog Day. We cannot escape. [chuckle] NE: Right. HK: We’re gonna talk a little bit about that
later. All of these dynamics that you’re talking
about, we see them in Canada, too, with the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en. They were trying to stop a natural gas pipeline,
they were confronted by a judge who granted an injunction under the assumption that the
underlying title of the land, even though it had not been agreed to, they land it up
and agreed to share in a treaty is a Canadian land. And so we have these judges continually making
decisions, despite the rule of law that violate aboriginal title and rights. And I was interested to deviate just a little
bit about a review that a retired North Dakota judge wrote about your book. I’m curious about the audience, who you wrote
the book for. It is an accessible book. And that’s not to take away from its sophistication,
but it’s accessible in the sense that you’re generous to a non-Native audience. And so this North Dakota judge wrote a review
of your book and he said… He gave you some praise, and then he said,
“Estes is a very passionate writer with a point of view, which my background and experience
cannot allow me to share. Nevertheless, this book is a good read in
terms of appreciating Estes advocacy and commentary. Just do not accept everything he writes as
being historically accurate.” NE: Yeah. In the academy, we have this process called
peer review. [chuckle] I don’t think this judge is my peer,
so I… [laughter] I’ll probably end up in front of his court one day and I should really
be… I’m in a different country. Right? He may never watch this. No, but I think he really gets to this embedded
mentality that I’m trying to dislodge. It’s not just… These aren’t just stories. These ideas aren’t just in people’s heads. They’re manifest in everyday reality and especially
in the courts of the conquerors. We only have to look at this judge and the
courtrooms that he sat in and presided. I don’t know for a fact if he presided over
water protectors cases, but I do know for a fact that when he did preside over cases
there was a picture of Red Tomahawk above his bench and Red Tomahawk is the person who
assassinated one of our greatest leaders, Sitting Bull. So, the State of North Dakota has, in the
past, made Red Tomahawk a symbol of the state, somebody that they can recognize and hold
up as their own hero. NE: These are the things, these are the structures
that we’re working against. But also I didn’t write this book for Judge… And I’m glad he read it, more power to him. He actually read it and he pulled out all
of these quotes that were very kind of like… He said that the rest of the Bismarck mall
never happened, even though you can Google… He wrote this in the Bismarck Tribune, which
is the paper of record for North Dakota, and you can Google that arrest and you’ll find
it in there. But he cast shadows of doubt also on the resistance
itself and its interpretations of history. But the thing is, is that he is a state judge,
he does not weigh in on cases of treaty, so he is inherently disqualified from weighing
in a legal opinion on what we consider an international relation. And I wrote this book not for people, not
for judges, not for conservative judges in North Dakota. I wrote this book for my 16-year-old self
who grew up in Chamberlain, South Dakota, a racist border town, who didn’t have things
like this growing up. NE: And so I imagine… I had this imagined conversation with my younger
self, but also a real conversation with the water protector, Bobbi Jean Three Legs, with
my friend, Michelle, who’s in the audience here, we were sitting around breakfast, one
morning, and she was talking about… She was like, “What is this settler colonialism? What do you mean by capitalism?” And so we began explaining and she just began
narrating her experience. And I was like, “You already know what settler
colonialism is. You live it. You already know what capitalism is, you already
know what hetero-patriarchy is, you lived these things.” But she just didn’t have the language to articulate
it. She knew enough that things were wrong to
organize, thousand mile relay runs with youth runners to go to Washington, DC, to tell people
that they didn’t want a pipeline built through their land. But she didn’t use the language of settler
colonialism, even though she did a… She didn’t know what it means. And to give you another example, one of my
really good friends, Lewis Grass Rope, he’s my [16:17] ____ he’s actually in the book. We did a community panel with him back home,
and he started using the word “settler colonialism.” Everything is settler colonialism now, [chuckle]
which is really great. Those are the kinds of people that I was trying
to reach. HK: I wanna talk about settler colonialism,
but just wanna continue on with this thread about who you wrote the book for. And really, I guess, the importance of… We can resist settler colonialism and all
of these registers, but through narrative and through discourse is a critically important
register to push back against these defenders of settler colonialism. And I guess my question is sort of related
to settler colonialism. When I read your book, and then think back
on other indigenous histories or the history of indigenous North America, they tend to
reflect a darkness of settler colonialism… There’s no escape from settler colonialism. I think about Howard Zinn, I think about Roxanne
Dunbar-Ortiz. She wrote a brilliant book, but it is very
much… It is a difficult book to read, because every
chapter is just like, “This is what settlers did to Native people. Killed us, scalped us, etcetera.” Even Robbie Williams, legal history it’s all
so very dark, but a thread that I found really refreshing in your book was of hope. Throughout the entire book, it’s this pushback
against that narrative of hopelessness. I wonder if that was a conscious decision
in writing the book, if it was a response to that type of history, or if it just came
natural? NE: I think we’re living in an era of unbridled
neoliberal capitalism, and it’s choked off alternatives to itself. And it’s even affected the way in which we
can or cannot imagine a future without the current state of things. And I think a lot of our histories, and the
way that they’re written, although we do need them and we do need that documentary evidence
in how the system works, we also have to remember the process in which, in the 1960s and 1970s,
in the rise of the Red Power movement, the horizon of struggle extended beyond the state. It went beyond just state recognition. It was part of it, but it was really an international
movement, and it really sparked these fires that really couldn’t be put out and people
weren’t really seeking in corporation into the nation state. Some people were, and we live in an era right
now where that’s the end goal. The nation state itself, the colonizer, is
the horizon of struggle. And I think that’s really problematic, because
what happens, how do you get rights and how do you get recognition, you have to articulate
and define your injury. And then you have to have the person who was
doing the injuring, then recognize it and say, “Hey, that’s a really bad thing.” And in Canada, you say, “Oh, we’re sorry.” [laughter] HK: A few tears. NE: A few tears. Then they’re like, “We’re gonna hug the murderer
out of you.” [chuckle] But really that limits our possibilities
and what a future premise on justice will actually look like. And for me, I am much more interested… It’s not that we repeat what happens in the
past, but we can learn that not at all moments of time, even when we go back to the Ghost
Dance, when it was our darkest hour, we had… We were starving, we were horse-less, we were
largely unarmed, we were divided, but yet we had this revolutionary theory of a world
without colonialism, without the United States, and without the current state of things. That, to me, is very powerful. NE: And when I think of things like Standing
Rock or even this current movement against the Keystone XL Pipeline, or all of these
pipelines, is that you had thousands and thousands of young people who experienced freedom for
the first time. And that’s dangerous, ’cause you can’t take
those things away from them. You can destroy their camp, you can arrest
people, but you can’t take away that experience of freedom. And I was politicized at an anti-war rally
in 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq for the second time, and I saw the reaction
of the police state. I was 17 years old, I tasted teargas and pepper
spray for the first time, and that politicized me. I could never unlearn that experience, and
there was no way I could go back to just accepting the status quo. And now we have young people who are coming
up, who are at Standing Rock, who… You and I were just having this conversation. They’re really radical, and they have visions
of freedom that were unimaginable, even when I was their age. And that’s what’s the most powerful, and that’s
what I’m trying to document in this. It’s not a new thing really, it’s part of
this longer trajectory. HK: Yeah. Often, when you’re an academic or you’re in
academia, there is this inability to break out of the theory. And we’ve sort of been talking around settler
colonialism. I’m not gonna get into it directly right now,
but I think that you’re right, with the next generation of indigenous thinkers and activists,
they’re really obliterating what maybe my generation thought settler colonialism was
and what the horizons of settler colonialism were. And so when I am invoking Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
or talking about Patrick Wolfe, settler colonialism is this monolithic structure. It’s not colonialism where the colonists leave
and there’s a period of decolonization. The settlers stay and they try to liquidate
the indigenous population and build a new society on top of it, and there’s nothing
that you can really do to resist that settler colony because it just extends itself in all
directions and incorporate your resistance and re-articulate settler colonialism. And it effectively is hopeless, as I said
earlier, and I think for many years, in indigenous studies anyway, this is a very nihilistic
approach and didn’t allow us the space to appreciate or even propose indigenous resistance,
intangible material, everyday ways. HK: And I just wanna read a quote from your
book and then draw two questions out of it that I think, for me, were really impactful. First, “Tradition is usually defined as a
static or unchanging practice. The view often suggests that indigenous culture
or tradition doesn’t change over time, that indigenous people are trapped in the past
and thus have no future. But as colonialism changes throughout time,
so does resistance to it by drawing upon early struggles and incorporating elements of them
into their own experience, each generation continues to build dynamic and vital traditions
of resistance.” Now, settler colonialism endures despite that. So, how do we reconcile this? What are the productive spaces for change? And I think part of the answer… Well, part of what I hope is your answer is
around the conceptualization of indigenous people. ‘Cause you resist the essentializing tendency
of indigenous people, and say, “You know what, indigenous people, we’re complex and have
different responses to this very same scenario.” And I wonder if you could speak a little bit
about why it was so important to push back against that essentialization. NE: I really like to ground our traditions
of resistance in a concept that’s now becoming very popular in indigenous feminist circles
is this notion of relationality. And I try to document it empirically in what
it means in the sense of looking at our treaty relations, our first prophet, our primary
prophet, the person or the being that made us Lakota people today was Pte Ska Win, the
White Buffalo Calf Woman, and she brought us into correct relations with the non-human
world and also the human world. And I look at that and I look at how, if you’re
on your phone just Google “Lakota people” and do images search, and you’ll just see
a bunch of dudes in black and white photographs. And how even the perceptions of ourselves
or the dominant narrative, we’ve internalized that, that we’re a male-dominated society,
forgetting this long tradition of relationality that goes back to our primary prophet, Pte
Ska Win. And we look at things like the 1868 Fort Laramie
Treaty that said, “So long as the buffalo shall roam to justify the chase, we shall
have reign over 32 million acres of territory.” NE: And we’re not just making this up and
saying like this was… We can go back and impose this kind of view
on history, because the military understood that connection, too. They understood that if we undermine indigenous
women’s political authority and our Two-Spirit, our LGBTQ, for us, we have multiple different
gender relations, if we undermine that, we also undermine an indigenous political authority. And so we’ve adopted a hetero-patriarchal
notion of who we are in the past tense. But even in our treaty relations, even the
documentary evidence that exists and the oral traditions that exist that interpret that
Article 11 of the Buffalo Nation, says that, Red Cloud said, “pte” means her, it’s a female
version of a buffalo, “pte oyate,” her nation. And wherever the Buffalo Nation roams, that’s
our territory, that’s what Red Cloud, said. And so the military understood that connection,
they understood that gendered relationship, and they also understood that connection that
we had with our relative, the Buffalo Nation. So, they understood, if there’s no more buffalo,
then we have no rights to this treaty territory. So, they began a mass extermination campaign. NE: Fast forward into the mid-20th Century,
they understood that our entire social and biological reproduction relied on what they
called the free goods of nature in these fertile river bottom lands along Mni Sose, the Missouri
River, what we call the Missouri River. And so when they destroyed our land, they
were targeting, they were trying to break our relations, not just with the water and
the land itself, but amongst our own people, and trying to force what Marx calls the proletarianization,
forced men into the wage economy, forced women into the home, by destroying our subsistence
economy, because that’s how we organized our political authority at that time. How you eat, where you eat, where you get
your food is directly related to how you relate to the land and how you relate to each other. These were targeted destruction, every instantiation. And so we can see why Two-Spirit and LGBTQ
activists weren’t just symbolically represented at Standing Rock, but they were actively central
to the organization of the camp itself. Some people called it a coming home. NE: I talked to one activist who hadn’t been
home to Standing Rock, she is Hunkpapa Lakota, hadn’t been home since the 1970s because of
the anti-gay discrimination that she had faced in her own homelands. And now we are living in an indigenous movement
that says hetero-patriarchy is just as untenable as US occupation of our homelands, and that
it’s representing a reconnection, a form of relationality that we haven’t seen. If ever, I would say, it’s a new conception
of who we are. It’s a tradition in the best sense. It’s the selection and re-selection of ancestors,
but it’s also a projection into the future because these people know that they wanna
be good ancestors to the coming generations. And that’s the ultimate sacrifice, or the
ultimate goal, or a life goal of a Lakota, to be a good relative, not just the here and
now, and not just in the past, but also to the future. HK: I think so much of what you are describing
is the revitalization of authentic indigenous protocols and traditions, and it’s difficult
to navigate what is authentic and what isn’t. But I think, in reading your book, it’s very
clear that that has to be a part of the resistance to settler colonialism. And I appreciated the theoretical intervention,
and I think it builds on the work of people, like Shiri Pasternak, where settler colonialism
responds to indigenous resistance, indigenous resistance responds to settler colonialism,
and there’s this co-constitutive dance that goes on. And we’re always looking, as I said earlier,
for the breakout of that. But I think it’s only a recent phenomenon
that we started to think about settler colonialism that way. And I was wondering about your conceptualization
of the Ghost Dance as a strategy out of that loop. And it’s one where we take something that
is authentic or traditional, and apply it to contemporary circumstances but also blow
up these conceptions of what it is to be indigenous, at least under the mainstream gay. Again, as I said to you before, I don’t wanna
appropriate the Ghost Dance for this particular context, but I do see it as a compelling contemporary
framework for resistance under the structural notion of settler colonialism. So, if you could talk a little bit about that. NE: There’s parallels with the current movement
that’s very much youth led in the sense that, when we think of the Ghost Dance, we don’t
think of the young people that were involved. And that’s what I really tried to document
in parts of that chapter that you’re talking about, in the sense that it was boarding school-trained
indigenous youth who ran away, who learned how to read and write and speak in Lakota,
but also in English, and it was a very much a modern movement in the sense that they were
sending letters to each other and translating the prophecy and the songs and the visions
of Wovoka, who was a Paiute prophet of the Ghost Dance. So, it was very much a youth movement in that
sense. And it was a direct response to the reservation
era at that time, and it also provided a vision of a future where they said the world would
be wiped of white settlers and all of our nations, all of our relatives would return,
not just human but non-human, the buffalo would return. NE: And it’s been a distorted prophecy, and
it’s been… John Neihardt, who is a poet, wrote this book
called “Black Elk Speaks,” which is a semi-true book, but he fabricated the most quoted elements
of that book in the sense that he had a fatalistic view of the Ghost Dance, saying that we were
a neolistic culture that was trying to return to a past that never existed, etcetera, etcetera. And Black Elk mourned when he saw the Ghost
Dancers strewn across the bloody snow at Wounded Knee in 1890. But Black Elk never believed those things
and he never said those things. He believed that the Ghost Dance prophecy
may not have been fulfilled in that generation, but it didn’t mean that tree of life that
he envisioned died at Wounded Knee, that its roots were still spread in the ground and
rooted in the ground, and in the forms of taking ceremony underground and taking language
underground and taking these things underground, but also this idea that there is an essentialist
or an authentic experience of indigenous people. We wouldn’t think of children, who had their
hair cut and who were speaking English, as main participants in this particular movement. And we would say that today. Why is it that we are reinforcing these binaries
of authentic indigenous experience in authentic? NE: In the States, about four to five Native
people don’t live in Indian reservations or federal land, but that doesn’t make them less
indigenous, but they’re also living on indigenous land and they’re re-establishing forms of
relation to places like cities, or re-establishing relations and redefining relations with each
other. And that’s what I’m trying to complicate in
this story, is that it’s not just these perfect binaries of who’s the authentic Indian and
who isn’t, but it’s often those who are most dispossessed. And even the Red Power movement, that was
formed out of a lot of indigenous people on relocation whose lands were flooded. There was no home to go back to, so what do
you do with that? Who do you become out of that? And we experience that kind of question as
indigenous, as a family who had our homelands inundated, and our lands taken. There’s no home for us to return back to,
and the animals themselves have been destroyed. So, it’s a re-envisioning and a re-imagining. We’ve lived several apocalypses, whether it
was the fur trade, the genocide of the buffalo, or the damming of our river, and now this
new apocalypse of the carbon infrastructure that’s being built. HK: Well, just as you were speaking, and also
when I was reading the book, there was… For us, as Anishinabek, we have Mishibijiw,
the underwater panther, Nimki Binesi, the Thunderbird. And basically, when humans get out of line,
they come together, the water, the land, and the sky, to hold us accountable. And sometimes that can be devastating ecological
catastrophe, for people at least. And then once that… A road subsides, then the land comes back
and maybe the people can come back. In some ways, that’s an apocalyptic vision,
but I’m not entirely sure how to describe it because it’s a… What we’re talking about is a different transformation
rooted in large-scale transformation that benefits us as humans, but also our relations. And I think the most powerful book… One of the most powerful parts about your
book, in addition to how you wove together settler colonialism and white supremacy and
hetero-patriarchy was very clear reference… Yes, minor accomplishment. [laughter] The emphasis, the urgency of recognizing
that we have about 10 years before the planet decide to swallow us, before Mishibijiw and
Nimki Binesi return, and we’ve got to do something about it. HK: And one last quote, before I know that
we’ve gotta open it up for questions, I mistakenly said you were drawing on Glen Coulthard before
we began this, it’s actually Russell Means that Glen Coulthard was drawing on. “Mni Wiconi, water is life, exists outside
the logic of capitalism. Whereas past revolutionary struggles have
strived for emancipation of labor from capital, we are challenged not just to imagine, but
to demand the emancipation of earth from capital. For the earth to live, capitalism must die.” I know a lot of these talks, people will get
up in the question and answer and say, “What can we do as an ally?” And then you make a pretty clear call for
solidarity. Do you wanna end by expanding on that call? NE: Sure. I guess, since we’re in the heart of the snake
pit. If we’re talking about the Black Snake, the
snake pit, as my friend Rob Nichols described it, is coming out of the tar sands in Canada. Canada owns 50% of the mining companies around
the world, and they’re not just putting oil pipelines through our… The Trans-Canada pipeline through our homelands,
but they’re also building dams, they’re building nickel mines in Guatemala against indigenous
people there. And for us, for us, indigenous people, when
we talk about decolonization, everyone is like, “Oh, that’s an indigenous problem.” Decolonization is a form, I would argue, a
form of settler onto side, meaning destroying the settler world. Not like settler people themselves, but all
the privileges that are granted. Not just like… I’m not talking about just social privileges,
not getting shot by the police as much as Native people, but the legal implementation
of these laws that are always counteracting against indigenous authority and against indigenous
sovereignty. And if we look to places like Standing Rock,
and not just the Standing Rock movement, but the Keystone XL movement, and the movement
in the Black Hills Alliance, there were key alliances made with non-indigenous people
who had a vested stake. NE: For treaties… I understand treaties are much different in
the States than they are in Canada, but we recognize also that treaty rights, at the
end of the day, are really the only thing that a lot of these white folks, who are living
on our land as uninvited guests, that’s the only legal mechanism they have to resist these
pipelines and to resist the contamination of their drinking water. But we don’t do what the settlers did to us. We’re not gonna genocide them. We didn’t dispossess them from their land,
and we didn’t take their most precious… We didn’t take their children from them. When we created the camps at Standing Rock,
or we created the camps in the Black Hills, we invited them into this struggle, not as
our white slaves or anything like that, but as allies, as equals into the struggle. And that’s something that we have to begin
thinking about. NE: And I’ll just leave with this story of… In 1974, at Standing Rock, the American Indian
Movement was facing a mass repression by the state, by judges like those who reviewed my
book, ’cause they were caught up in the Courts of the Conqueror, and it was almost as if
the US indigenous movement was crushed at that particular moment. And the elders who asked the American Indian
Movement to come to Wounded Knee in 1973, had worked with a sympathetic tribal council
at Standing Rock, probably the only tribal council that would deal with AIM at that particular
moment, and said, “We wanna take our treaties to the World Court.” And they didn’t know how. So, how do we do that? The Palestinians came. The South African Anti-Apartheid Movement
came. The Irish Republican Army came. The Nicaraguan Sandinistas came. And at this particular moment… And, of course, it got more complicated as
time went on, but at this particular moment, when settler society had largely turned its
back on the indigenous movement, we did what we did best. ‘Cause Lakota means ally and friend. We made relations with the rest of the world. And we wouldn’t have documents such as the
United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, had it not been for the
South African Anti-Apartheid Struggle, and specifically the Palestinian struggle. NE: And so, in this particular moment, as
indigenous people, we have every right to make relations with whomever we want. And there’s complications to that, but I wanna
put that out there, because this isn’t just an indigenous problem. They always defined it we’re the difficult
people, we’re the Indian problem. But this is your problem, too, as non-indigenous
peoples. HK: You have all been invited into the struggle. [music]

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