I’ve spent my entire day on the phone with various Native American water protectors, all of them perfect strangers to me. Every phone call lasted longer than I ever thought possible, and left me on the verge of tears — both for the unconscionable atrocities enacted upon these people, and for the inspirational and spiritual power that has energized those individuals just the same.
On the other side, they fight entirely for money. Energy Transfer Partners moved fast on this project because they knew that Bakken oil prices were dropping. In order to lock their partners into 2014 oil prices — which were twice as high as they are now — they are legally required to finish the pipeline by January 1.
As a result, the violence keeps escalating. Speaking with the water protectors, they will readily acknowledge that the cops, construction workers, and security guards who threaten their lives are simple people, just like them, who are just trying to do a job and treat their families well. Still, those people should ask themselves: is the cash they make really worth the damage they inflict — to human beings, and to the planet Earth at large?
That being said: these water protectors are living in an historic moment, and that’s the fuel they’ll carry with them, regardless of the outcome. When their lives aren’t being threatened by militarized police, they are re-inventing what it means to be a community — sharing food, song, culture, and prayer, and inviting others to do the same. There’s no judgement, no one saying “Your beliefs aren’t right” “Your religion is wrong” “Your perspective is skewed.” Truly, there’s only one shared rule among the tribes and allies: humans and our Mother Earth both have a right to live. So at the very least, it’s our job to be kind.