Editor’s Note: Dana Eldridge (Diné Navajo) spoke to reporters after an action she led in March 2017 where Water Protectors disrupted a Chicago City Council meeting to demand the city divest from banks backing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Below are excerpts from the interview.
CHICAGO — Without water, there is no life. So, we do the things we do— these crazy water protectors—for the plants, for the animals, for the future generations. ’Cause we understand that even though the society may make you think that the most important thing is to go to your job, to carry on business as normal, we cannot wait.
The oil could be flowing in the Dakota Access Pipeline very soon. But the people have power. And the way we can cut the head off this black snake is to divest from these banks, because that is essentially the bloodline for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
And one thing that we were trying to bring attention to is the threat that these pipelines pose to Lake Michigan. Right now, there’s Line 5 that passes under the straits of the Mackinaw, a pipeline that was built in the 1950s, and it’s starting to rupture. If that pipeline bursts, Lake Michigan will be contaminated with oil. And they’ve sent divers down, they’ve seen that it’s starting to come apart, and nobody’s talking about it. Nobody’s doing anything about it.
Maybe I seem extreme, but the situation is extreme. Can you imagine this beautiful lake contaminated with oil—what that looks like? How is that going to affect people? The Great Lakes contain a third of the world’s fresh water … people need to know the importance of that.
I’m Diné. I’m from the Navajo Nation in so-called Arizona-New Mexico, and people should understand that the way we are taught to treat water in this society is to take it for granted, is to not acknowledge the life-giving essence that she provides for us. She is our Mother.
And back home, I think we understand this because we live without running water. A third of my people live today without running water. A third of our people live without electricity. They’re on the reservation, which is huge. It’s the largest indigenous-held space in the so-called United States. And we have to haul water.
We live in the desert. We’re people from the desert. And when you have to haul water, you start to understand the value of every drop. Value is not even the right word, but how important every drop is. And not to waste water, not to play with water, not to disrespect water.
And here in the city, especially when you’re by such a big body of water, it’s easy to take that for granted. … But I really hope that people up here are able to open their hearts and understand how essential water is for our existence. Our Mother, our precious Mother Water, and how we need to honor her. We need to respect her. We need to acknowledge her. … And I just really hope that people who hear about this, who read about this, that they take that away: to respect our Mother.