Indigenous Peoples’ Day arrives at a crucial moment this electoral season, as the inspiring indigenous-led movement at Standing Rock continues to draw attention to how the U.S. government systematically violates the rights of Native Americans. Unlike the Clinton and Trump campaigns, we are committed to respecting treaties with Native peoples and transforming the nature of this colonial relationship.
That includes officially converting Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the federal level, as two states (Alaska and Vermont) and more than 20 municipalities throughout the United States have already done. We should not honor Columbus, a man implicated in the genocide of indigenous peoples. Instead, the U.S. government needs to attend to the egregious conditions in many Native American communities caused by centuries of aggressive policies of dispossession and displacement.
Last month, we traveled to Standing Rock and witnessed the devastating impacts of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). We also met with delegates from indigenous peoples throughout the continent, who arrived in solidarity with the movement in the largest gathering of indigenous peoples in 180 years. The struggle against the DAPL resonates for many indigenous and non-indigenous peoples throughout the world where pipelines, dams, mines, and other extractive industries suck the lifeblood out of communities.
Despite the unprecedented show of solidarity, attacks on the protectors at Standing Rock have continued and intensified in the weeks following the Obama administration’s decision to temporarily stall construction of the pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s territory. This morning — on Indigenous Peoples’ Day — riot police arrived during a peaceful protest and sacred ceremony and arrested 28 people, which was captured on live video by actress Shailene Woodley. These disrespectful acts against water protectors are reflective of a legacy of colonial mistreatment of indigenous peoples that violate their dignity and human rights.
Our misdemeanors for “trespassing” and “vandalism” will go away–the destruction caused by the pipeline won’t. The real “trespassers” and “vandals” are the Dakota Access Pipeline companies who have desecrated sacred sites, and the pipeline itself, whose very existence is not only a threat to the Sioux, but to 17 million people who depend on the Missouri River system for drinking water. We reaffirm our solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe along with other indigenous peoples defending themselves from degradation, poison and pillage, such as the Apache in Oak Flat, AZ; the Diné in Black Mesa; and countless others.
In order to change the course of U.S. government relations with indigenous peoples, we will adhere to treaties with Native American peoples and ratify international human rights frameworks that protect indigenous rights. That includes implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, International Labor Organization Convention 169, and the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Human Rights System of the Organization of American States. While words like “consent” may make the colonial establishment uncomfortable, we will make sure that indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent is respected for any project or policy that will affect their territories or well-being.
Indigenous rights are crucial to building a better world. The menacing presence of extractive industries throughout indigenous territories threatens everyone’s survival. We cannot afford to continue putting corporate profits over people and the planet. Our campaign is committed to establishing meaningful dialogue with indigenous peoples and ensuring that U.S. policies do not interfere with their rights to life, dignity, and autonomy.