Published August 28, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO — On Wednesday, August 24, the of day the preliminary injunction hearing in Washington D.C., some 400 American Indians and their supporters gathered in front of the San Francisco Federal Building to add their prayers, hearts and minds to those protectors and defenders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Like the Camp of the Sacred Stone near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the San Francisco rally was organized by women; Corrina Gould (Ohlone) co-founder of Indigenous Women Organizing for Change, Pennie Opal Plant (Choctaw, Cherokee, Yaqui) member of Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth, founder of Idle No More SF, owner, Gathering Tribes Art Gallery, and Pam Tau Lee, a founder of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Chairperson of the Chinese Progressive Association.
Those gathered on Wednesday came to with the central idea to share ways to support those at the Spirit Camp, gather donations to help fund food, legal defense costs, water and whatever supplies might be needed and to remain mobilized in the movement to stop oil companies from continual extraction.
Corrina Gould (Ohlone) offered the following opening prayer:
“Creator, we are praying today for the women all over the world who stand for water. The women, mothers, grandmothers who stand at the front lines, protecting the waters…as indigenous people we know that all of life, humans, plants, birds, fish, four-legged, none of us can survive without water…Here in California we are about to lose our precious salmon. Please, we ask you to please call all of your ancestors into this place, help us save our waters. Grandmothers, we thank you for this day, for our brothers and sisters in North Dakota. We do this for the next seven generations. We promise you, we will stop these pipelines wherever they are.”
Pennie Opal Plant (Choctaw, Cherokee, and Yaqui) asked all assembled to please “put your prayers into this bucket of water so that our brother here today, Benji can take it with him to the Spirit Camp in North Dakota. We are also going to send around donation buckets so all of you can help support in any way that is needed. We have provided signs that also outline the many different ways you can help support from here. This is a national movement to stop big oil from their constant extraction and destruction of our precious mother earth, and we are all now called on to protect and defend her for the next generation”.
“Environmental racism is what is happening in North Dakota. We all know this to be true. Our organization traveled from the streets of Chinatown to the streets of Paris in order to fight this injustice to all people, all nations. We need and demand a just transition to clean energy,” commented Pam Tau Lee. Ms. Lee taught the crowd how to say “solidarity” in Chinese. Speakers from the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines spoke about the indigenous fight to protect lands in Mindanao. They held signs that said “From Mindanao to North Dakota-No Dakota Access Pipeline.”
“I am so thankful for the young people now defending Mother Earth. We have lived through genocide, and our children are even stronger. We are grateful to all those who help us. Now we are praying for a good resolution. We can’t live without air or water. It is up to us now to let these companies know that profits don’t keep us alive. I’m not as young as I once was, but in my heart and mind I will never stop fighting for our rights as Indian people,” stated Carol Standing Elk (Lakota) a long time Bay Area activist.
Osprey Orielle, who had just returned from the Spirit Camp reported: “The media in North Dakota is saying those in the camp are violent. This is a lie. It is very peaceful. There is only prayer and incredible strategy building going on at the Camp. It is the largest indigenous gathering in 150 years. Homeland Security did remove water, but donations are continuing to come into the camp of food and water. More will be needed, of course, just remain strong and dedicated in your support.”
Spiritual songs were offered by singers Aurora Mamea, Manny Lieras, and Hartman Deetz in their own tribal languages. Hartman Deetz taught the crowd a song in the Wampanoag language, and all 400 supporters participated. The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo offered a prayer for those in North Dakota and sang a traditional song. The Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo also traveled to San Francisco for the rally.
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