Bioneers At Standing Rock

An update from the front lines by the Bioneers Indigeneity Program

#DAPL, #waterislife, #KeepItInTheGround, #sacredstonecamp, #bioneers

Many bioneers are on the frontlines protesting the 1,200 mile, $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL. Dallas Goldtooth, Kandi Mosset, Xiuhezcatl Martinez, and Clayton Thomas-Muller are among the thousands of Indigenous peoples from Alaska to Florida who have joined “the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years,” according to the BBC. They are protesting on behalf of the millions of people whose drinking water is threatened by the pipeline construction, as well as the plants and animals that also depend on clean water.

Indigenous Environmental Network Organizer and Bioneers faculty member Dallas Goldtooth describes the effort:

“As Oceti Sakowin people, our relationship to the land and water is the foundation of our identity. Understand this, we will stop this pipeline… Our resistance is based on love for our people and the land, not out of hate for others. We utilize peaceful direct action to demonstrate our will and lead with the original instructions our ancestors have left for us. . . We must keep this oil in the ground for the benefit of all future generations.”


Dallas Goldtooth at the Standing Rock Camp.

(photo: Josué Rivas, the Guardian)

Fossil Fuels and Cultural Trauma

The proposed pipeline cuts along several Native American reservations, crossing through sacred tribal lands that are protected by treaty. Over the Labor Day weekend, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, illegally bulldozed burial grounds and sacred sites of prayer in a violent attack on the Native “protectors” who are standing bravely on behalf of the water and land. Paid security personnel pepper-sprayed and released attack dogs on the protectors.

We are reminded in this horrifying moment to acknowledge the ongoing traumas that our Indigenous brothers and sisters around the world face every day, as they stand on the frontlines resisting the fossil fuel industry. Standing Rock is another pinnacle moment in our human history. Or, as Bioneers co-founder, Nina Simons, put it, “Standing Rock is this generation’s Selma.”

“It’s a familiar story in Indian Country,” writes the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, David Archambault,” in a New York Times Op Ed piece.

“This is the third time that the Sioux Nation’s lands and resources have been taken without regard for tribal interests. The Sioux peoples signed treaties in 1851 and 1868. The government broke them before the ink was dry.  When the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Missouri River in 1958, it took our riverfront forests, fruit orchards and most fertile farmland to create Lake Oahe. Now the Corps is taking our clean water and sacred places by approving this river crossing. Whether it’s gold from the Black Hills or hydropower from the Missouri or oil pipelines that threaten our ancestral inheritance, the tribes have always paid the price for America’s prosperity.”

Too often, Indigenous voices are silenced when it comes to threats to environmental and social health. The protection of Indigenous homelands and cultural landscapes are critical to the wellbeing of all Americans. Beyond the flagrant and shocking destruction of burial grounds and sacred sites, beyond unleashing attack dogs on innocent victims of the fossil fuel industry, this issue shows that Indigenous voices of protest speak for all of us. We all have the right to clean drinking water. Our children and grandchildren don’t deserve to inherit the global warming crisis caused by our generation’s relentless fossil fuel consumption.

How To Learn More

You can follow what’s happening live at Standing Rock, by following the Sacred Stone Camp and Dallas Goldtooth via social media.

To learn more about Native American activism against the fossil fuel industry, check out these past Bioneers’ videos:

You are also invited to join us for live discussion October 20-23 at the Marin Center in San Rafael, California. Many of the bioneers protecting our rights at Standing Rock will be at the 2016 Bioneers Conference to talk about these critical issues. Highlights include:

For more information, feel free to contact us at


Cara Romero (Chemhuevi) and Alexis Bunten (Aleut/Yup’ik)

Bioneers Indigeneity Program

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