Editor’s Note: In honor of the third anniversary of the Water Protectors movement at Standing Rock, below are excerpts from an interview by Tracy L. Barnett of the Esperanza Project and Lakota spiritual activist Cheryl Angel, an occupant and prior spokesperson of Sacred Stone Camp. As the pipeline construction industry is booming across the U.S. and Canada, and Donald Trump seeks to bulldoze the cancelled Keystone XL Pipeline through more than 800 miles of unceded Lakota treaty territory, at least nine state governments are working to criminalize protest movements like Standing Rock. Please read the entire interview at: https://www.esperanzaproject.com/2019/native-american-culture/many-standing-rocks/.
Cheryl Angel: “Once you stand up in resistance to the destruction of our Earth, our mother, there is no way you can sit back down… I’ll be standing in solidarity aligned with all those who understand the threat to our water until the end…there are just too many multinational extractivist corporations to ignore. And with the current leaders in many countries… writing legislation to criminalize individuals and fast-track pipelines, now is the time for more people to stand up and fight for our next seven generations.
“In my opinion, mainstream media failed the people of the country, not just the water protectors… They could have prevented all of the abuses of law enforcement, the unnecessary jailing of hundreds, and no one would even have had to end up with trumped up criminal charges [at Standing Rock] … Mainstream media has [never] accurately reported the facts of what pipelines actually do to the environment, nor the truth about the governmental figures lending their political weight to approve illegal pipeline permits and how the banking system was funding the pipelines…
“After Standing Rock, my own life isn’t my life anymore, because once you stand up and you see the injustice and you see the lack of concern for the environment from a corporate and legal standpoint, it doesn’t end that easily. Another thing, while you’re standing there you get to talk to the person standing next to you, and you get to hear their stories.
“And they all came with stories—devastating stories about what happened because nobody stood up—or when they did stand up they were either killed or massacred or forced off the land. But at Standing Rock people weren’t going to lay down, because we knew we were right. The judge said we were right, even after the pipeline was built.
“Now it makes perfect sense to protect water everywhere. I have a deep relationship with water. I know it’s alive. I know it can hear our pleas, and our songs and all the prayers said along its riverbanks and shores.
As Indigenous people with sovereign economies, we don’t have the need for a huge capitalistic society to come onto our lands and we certainly don’t need these pipelines destroying the water we need to drink.
“So water is in danger, globally. Right now Indigenous communities are still at risk, and they are standing up, because they have to stand up. When you finally realize —WATER IS LIFE—you understand why you can’t sit back down.”