Hawai‘i Stands Up for Standing Rock
Over 100 Big Island residents took part in a peaceful demonstration on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in front of Hilo’s King Kamehameha statue on the Big Island of Hawai‘i in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, who are protesting the construction of Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), an oil line that they say will threaten the reservation’s water supply.
The event was a direct reaction to a call from a collective known as the Water Protectors for a global day of action in response to the DAPL’s construction, and the arrests and actions taken against those exercising their First Amendment Rights.
The Water Protectors are asking that construction of the DAPL be halted until there is a complete Environmental Impact Statement on the project.
“I stand in peace protest to show support to our brothers and sisters in North Dakota, as well as all the people who would be affected, not if, but when the pipeline leaks or breaks in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers,” said Kaua‘i resident Nayeva Florie, who demonstrated on Kaua‘i Island Tuesday.
Big Island resident Angela “Felicity” Cross, a University of Hawai‘i at Hilo student from the Northern California Yurok Tribe, organized Hilo’s Big Island Stands with Standing Rock event.
“Hawai‘i faces many of the same issues that indigenous peoples on the mainland do,” said Cross. “Our fight goes beyond the protection of sacred lands. It is a fight for the environment, clean water and basic human rights and most importantly, it is a fight for the protection of our future generations.”
“We are rising against corporate greed, stating that we can no longer be bought and that we as a people deserve to be respected,” Cross continued. “It is important for Big Island residents—for all residents in Hawai‘i—to stand in solidarity because they face the same exploitation here on the Island. We all need to stand united to stop greed from destroying our ‘āina and our culture.”
“I came out to stand in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock and in solidarity with all those who work to protect the waters; the Earth,” said Katy Benjamin, a Hilo resident and instructor at Big Island Yoga Therapy.
Also among the crowd was Nahko Bear, the popular Big Island artist from Medicine for the People, and Hawaiian activist Pualani Case.
Case is also fighting to protect indigenous rights to clean water and scared spaces on Hawai‘i Island.
Case is co-representation for the Flores-Case ‘Ohana in the Board of Land and Natural Resources Contested Case Hearing on the Thirty Meter Telescope proposed for the peak of Mauna Kea, Hawai‘i’s largest volcano.
In addition to the Hilo gathering, Hawaiʻi residents turned out in Kona, on Kaua‘i, and on both O‘ahu and Maui in front of First Hawaiian Bank locations.
First Hawaiian Bank is owned in significant part by BNP Paribas, an international bank heavily invested in the pipeline that threatens the Missouri River and surrounding sacred tribal land.
“Immediately transitioning Hawaiʻi to a 100% clean energy economy means safer, cleaner communities here and around the world,” said Marti Townsend, Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi director. “Every person who closes their account with First Hawaiian Bank is sending a clear message to its majority shareholder, BNP Paribas, and all local financial institutions that we won’t let our money be used to further endanger our planet. If we stick together, we can make big banks finally put the interest of people over the bank’s interest in profits.”
In addition to First Hawaiian Bank, Wells Fargo, Chase and President-elect Donald Trump are among U.S. investors.
“It is important that we all are conscious of how our local money and resources are being used,” said Keauhou Mitchell, a student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. “We are all connected.”
National and Global Protests
Over 300 tribes have gathered in support of stopping the construction, creating what Native Americans are calling the largest gathering in history.
Among the thousands turning up in Standing Rock are Robert Kennedy Jr., Willie Nelson, retired police officers, Black Lives Matter leaders and religious leaders of various belief systems.
In recent weeks, social media has been flooded with pictures and videos of the interactions between local police, private DAPL security, the National Guard and the self-proclaimed Water Protectors.
From the attack dogs, spraying of mace, firing rubber bullets and arrests conducted with extreme force, the fight in N.D. has been described by many as, “a war zone.”
The events gained worldwide focus when the interactions escalated and Journalist Amy Goodman was arrested.
People from all across the county also responded to the global call for action on Tuesday, with solidarity protests popping up from Alaska, San Francisco, St. Paul and New York to Washington D.C.
Around the globe, protests were held in Greece, New Zealand the United Kingdom and other countries.
A press release from Greenpeace Thursday said the largest bank in Norway, DNB, sold its assets in DAPL.
This decision was the result of a petition with 120,000 signatures delivered from Greenpeace to the bank, urging them and other financial institutions to pull finances from the project.
The Standing Rock Sioux started to fight back in May when the project was rerouted through what the Sioux Tribe says are sacred burial grounds.
The oil pipeline was originally routed through Bismarck, North Dakota, but residents there feared it might jeopardize their water supply; therefore, the project was rerouted through tribal lands and directly risks contaminating the drinking water of thousands of people downstream from the pipeline—if completed.
The construction of the project is in the final stages with boring equipment arriving this week; the pipeline is to run under the Missouri River.
Federal law requires that all projects complete an EIS.
There have been 220 oil pipeline leaks in the U.S. in 2016 thus far.