Giving Thanks: The Pipeline Special
5 min read
by Emma Glassman-Hughes | November 23, 2016
This year’s Thanksgiving is about a lot more than elastic waistbands and gravy boats (but don’t worry--they’re still incredibly relevant). Not that there’s really ever a time where politics won’t interrupt holiday celebrations, but this year in particular brings us a multitude of political issues that are begging (for good reason) to be addressed at the dinner table. One such issue, the Dakota Access Pipeline and the band of Standing Rock water protectors who oppose it, is a touch too familiar to ignore this Turkey Day, considering the holiday’s origins. In case third grade social studies failed you the way it failed me, Thanksgiving was actually borne of the genocide of Native Americans for wealth and power gain, not the peaceful exchange of corn and ideas between white and brown pals a la the preferred history taught in schools. Oopsy daisy, Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser is meant for our tiles, not our past! Cleaning supplies and politics of our nation’s history aside, we are experiencing a cultural moment right now where Native Americans are again being terrorized by those with power, this time over access to water and environmental integrity. Long story short: Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Sunoco--two U.S. pipeline giants--were granted access to build a pipeline on tribal land that is likely to leak oil and other hazardous waste into the nearby river, which is the main water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The construction is also expected to damage or ruin ancient and sacred burial grounds. *Clueless voice* Ummm, this situation is Sioux bad, I could scream.
Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen via Wikimedia Commons
THINX has covered the story as it's unfolded, but this week the controversy turned a new corner, as the police brutality against the Sioux Nation water protectors and allies--who have been camped out for months, almost entirely peacefully protesting the construction--escalated to unthinkable (and freezing) degrees. Between reports from police that protesters had been throwing rocks at them, and reports from the protectors that police had been firing rubber bullets and tear gas at them, there is clearly a lot of finger-pointing back and forth. Luckily for us, the observers, there’s video footage to help us determine what was actually going on at Standing Rock this past week, and the images are disturbing. On top of rubber bullets and tear gas, the police drenched demonstrators on Sunday night with industrial hoses--as late-November, North Dakota temperatures dipped below 20 degrees overnight.
— IndigenousEnviroNet (@IENearth) November 21, 2016
Reports have shown that upwards of 160 people, of 400 protesters, were injured on Sunday night due to police action, and at least seven were hospitalized with head injuries.
And even with video footage, it can be difficult to decipher exactly what is going on when the police and the demonstrators are sparring in the dark. What is not difficult to decipher, however, is the symbolic significance of this abuse against Native Americans during the week in which we celebrate a holiday carved out of colonialism and exploitation. But hey! It’s true, Thanksgiving is my #1 favorite day of the year. My dad went to culinary school, and on days where we have an excuse to eat a ton of delicious food, we pull out all the stops. TBH, you’ve never known magic like my mom’s mashed potatoes, K? I am grateful that Thanksgiving for me, as a comfortable, white, middle class person, is simply a time for celebration and family bonding (and probably a little yelling and/or crying because we’re mega political but it’s fine! We’re fine!) This holiday means different things to different people, and it would be a waste of an opportunity for cultural growth if we were to ignore the centuries-long plight of Native Americans in their homeland, here on the soil we all call ours. History is repeating itself in front of our eyes, and the least we can do is watch while it happens instead of turning away. At THINX, we stand with Standing Rock. #NoDAPL
Donate to Standing Rock here to support the efforts of those on the front lines protecting their right to water. Yay, holiday spirit!
by Emma Glassman-Hughes