Opinions

Between a Rock and No Space

December 7th, 2016

In 2007, only four countries voted against the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. These were the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Though these countries posture as promoters of individual human rights and the rule of law, they do not collectively desire to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples and would rather use the law to limit them. The approach to dealing with Indigenous peoples and their issues has been to act like they do not exist. Standing Rock is not an isolated case.

I am continuously growing frustrated with the pseudo morality of the United States of America specifically. For some reason, as a nation, it can afford to commit serious crimes against humanity not just abroad but within its country too and somehow manage to still be considered a champion for human rights. During the election campaign, none of the candidates, neither Hillary nor Trump, made a slight effort to comment on Standing Rock. This to me is a clear statement to the Indigenous people: your issues, however serious, are not relevant to warrant a conversation even on an electoral stage.

Standing Rock raises environmental issues especially on water. However, I do not agree with those who say the pipeline project heads are not concerned about contaminating water. In 2014, the proposed route of Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) went through Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, with roughly 61,000 residents, 92 percent of them white. After it was determined that the pipelinecould contaminate drinking water, it was rerouted to pass by Standing Rock. On sacred burial grounds and without consulting the locals, the decision to materialize indigenous land was seen as the best option.

On this front, America faces its ugly past and not so pretty present. Land issues with the indigenous peoples and climate change are at the fore front of this conflict. Of Corse, the issue is being dealt with the best way America knows how. The military and police, armed, not only with guns and pepper spray but dogs on their side, have been sent to crash the protest. Media is not welcome here too. People are getting severely injured from ruthless attacks yet the “gods” of democracy, free speech, and media freedoms have chosen to be selective on this one. Intriguing, though, is the fact that the US government, for whatever reason, is more concerned about the rights of North Korean citizens than those of its own.

On September 6, 1995, Dudley George was shot by an officer of the Ontario Provincial police. He was participating in a protest over land claims in Ipperwash Provincial Park, which had been taken from the Ojibwe after second world war. The police team had been instructed by then premier Mike Harris’ government to use necessary force to disperse the protest. It was only twelve years later, in 2007, that an inquiry on this matter was held. I will not be surprised if in 2028, 12 years later, an inquiry on standing rock will be commissioned. Rumor has it that justice delayed is justice denied.

As I head out for the Christmas break, I hope the people of Standing Rock get a break too. I pray the Indigenous peoples of North America find a breather as well.

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