An Incan prophecy tells us that when the indigenous communities of the Eagle in the North and the Condor in the South come together, the Earth will awaken, and that neither the Eagle nor the Condor can be free without each other. Last week we saw some of the first steps to the fulfillment of that prophecy, as a delegation from the Ecuadorian Amazon traveled to North Dakota to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux and the #NoDAPL movement in their fight against the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on their ancestral territory.
I had the privilege to accompany this delegation, made up of Franco Viteri, Nina Gualinga, and Eriberto Gualinga from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku. Franco, Nina, Eriberto and I joined over 200 tribal nations that have traveled to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in their fight against the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on their ancestral territory.
Amazon Watch coordinated this delegation because both we and the people of Sarayaku wanted to support the Sioux nation in their struggle; often, small communities find themselves fighting huge corporations and they feel alone in that fight. So demonstrating this solidarity is important, both to let the Sioux know they are not alone, and so that the world can see that when we unite, we fight as one and are much stronger. If the Sioux were in this fight alone, the company probably would have already used it’s dirty tactics and would have won. But since all these indigenous nations and all this support have come together as one, they have been stronger and able to stand up against this corporation.
We also went to Standing Rock because we know that the struggles of the indigenous people of the North are as big and as important as those in the South. We know that water is life and that the fight for water is one of life or death. We don’t want oil companies in our lands because we don’t want to contaminate the land, water, air, our sacred lands. Like Franco said during the delegation, “My people are very conscious, because of our history and our tradition, just like the tribes here, of our connection with nature, with Mother Earth; we know that this is what gives balance to life here on earth. The transnational corporations, like those trying to build this oil pipeline, are blind because they don’t understand the language of nature.”
The Sarayaku, for their part, know profoundly the importance of understanding the language of nature, having successfully fought to keep extractive companies off their rainforest territory for over 25 years. Like Nina said at the press conference we held at Sacred Stone Camp with Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II, “indigenous people make up 4% of the world’s population but we are protecting 80% of the planet.”
Through the #NoDAPL movement, the world is seeing the Standing Rock fight is not just a cause for indigenous peoples, but also an awakening of all humanity to the realization that we need to protect the earth, that we need to continue to build the global movement for social justice and global transformation. I saw some of that unity in action in the collaboration between the elders and the younger generations: our elders give us wisdom, knowledge and guidance, so we, the younger generation must use our energy to take action.
The Sioux fight is representative of other fights around the globe. If Standing Rock wins this, we will win other fights for social and environmental justice. We all need to work together to build this global justice movement around the globe. We don’t even have to go all the way to Sacred Stone Camp to do something to address climate change and social justice; the change starts within, wherever we are, with our local communities and local organizations.
The world needs us!