They say that once you have tasted the bitter pill of injustice, that the taste never leaves you.
Many environmental protesters, or land protectors, who are veterans of one struggle, will go on to stand in solidarity with others in their own fight for social, racial, cultural or environmental justice too.
And so it is no surprise really that veterans of the bitter fight at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline have now vowed to fight Trump’s border wall.
The Texas Observer has a great piece about how a small group of Native American and environmental activists have set up a protest camp in a 150 year cemetery near the town of Rio Grande, south of the Hidalgo County town of San Juan, close to where the wall might be built.
The paper interviewed one of the activists, Juan Mancias, who has set up “Yalui Village”, which means “butterfly” in the Carrizo/Comecrudo language.
Mancias and others have vowed to protect the unmarked graves of Native Americans who would be unearthed during wall construction. “We’re here, ready to protect the environment and our rights as the original people of this land,” Mancias told the paper. “What are they gonna do? Run us over?”
Another Lakota/Dakota activist, DuWayne Redwater, added it was his job “to be landlords and caretakers of this land.”
And that is the power of protest. You can throw a pebble in a pond and never know where the ripples will go.
As OCI Board Member, Rebecca Solnit recalls earlier this month in the Guardian, last August she was on a rafting trip when one young climate activist told her that “since his months at the Standing Rock resistance camp, he had been encountering young Native people whose experiences at the protest site had encouraged them to dream of new possibilities and take actions that might otherwise have seemed out of reach.”
Standing Rock protests also led to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez standing for office. Solnit quotes Ocasio-Cortez saying: “I first started considering running for Congress, actually, at Standing Rock in North Dakota. It was really from that crucible of activism where I saw people putting their lives on the line … for people they’ve never met and never known. When I saw that, I knew that I had to do something more.”
As we know, Ocasio-Cortez is one of the number of young pioneers in Congress pushing for a Green New Deal and for radical climate action.
All the actions we take can inspire others, even if we the action we take fails in its short-term objectives. Your actions can give hope. And inspire others to dream too.
As Solnot writes: “You could not possibly catalyze a movement in the Dakotas with the intention that a woman would run for Congress in New York City and then go to the Capitol to advocate on climate. You could not assume, imagine or calculate that that would be a consequence. But you can recognize how common such indirect consequences are, and how important it is to not discount them. The course of history is full of confluences and meanders, oxbows, watersheds, dams and floods, tributaries and distributaries.”
It is so inspiring that Standing Rock has emboldened others to take on Trump over his criminal failure to act on climate change. It is inspiring that it is emboldening others to fight his illegitimate wall.
To quote Rebecca Solnit again from a piece she wrote today in the Guardian: “We already know that the border is a distraction and the dangers there are largely fictions”. She writes that the border wall distracts us from issues that really kill, including gun crime, poor air quality and climate change, amongst others.
As Rebecca notes: “These are the walls that would make us safer”, for example, “around the fossil fuel industry, to prevent mining and lobbying and burning the filthiest of fuels”.
Now that is a wall we all could unite behind. A cause we could all stand in solidarity with. Just like they did at Standing Rock.