Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley area indigenous and environmental organizations gathered Monday, Sept. 12, as part of a national day of action, calling on President Barack Obama to exercise his power to permanently stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
It started as a small camp back in April with a few Standing Rock tribal members set up to protest a huge pipeline designed to carry fracked oil 1,200 miles through what includes their sacred burial land and underneath their main source of water.
That small camp has now grown with hundreds of people who call themselves “land protectors,” choosing not using the term “protestors.” They have been traveling to the site to support the Sioux tribe. Concern for the issue has grown as images of dogs attacking demonstrators flooded social media.
Last week, a federal judge denied a preliminary injunction request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to cease construction of the controversial pipeline. Soon after, the Justice, Interior and Army departments issued a joint statement that halted construction temporarily at the contentious Missouri river crossing. It was considered a small victory but not enough and a decision was made to call for a nationwide call for action.
Locally, the call for action was held outside the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood.
The local groups, along with members of Native American tribes currently traveling to various cities to call attention to the fight against the pipeline, sang songs, burned sage and held up signs as cars along the busy street drove by. They beat drums and cheered as cars honked their horns in support of their effort.
Mark Morris was among the San Fernando Valley residents who participated in the day of action, along with other Porter Ranch residents. He said there are similar issues between the fight at Standing Rock, and the fight to close the Aliso Canyon Storage facility in the Valley.
“I believe it is vital for the people of Los Angeles, and especially the San Fernando Valley, to help bring attention to the people of North Dakota to fight for the land and clean water,” Morris said.
“Like the thousands of residents of the North San Fernando Valley impacted by the gas blowout at Aliso Canyon, the people of Standing Rock are fighting to prevent potential disaster and contamination of their soil and water,” he said.
Morris has been active with the “Save Porter Ranch” residents group, and is currently a member of the steering committee for SoCal 350 Climate Action organization.
The Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, based in the City of San Fernando, wrote a letter of support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and is sending a representative to join the effort. In the letter, tribal President Rudy Ortega Jr. wrote:
“We support you as you protect your sacred lands and spaces from the settler government against the will of your people. Your ancestral river and therefore your citizens’ health and life’s ways is now at risk by the DAPL. Therefore we support your opposition to DAPL…It is clear that the Dakota Access Pipeline is greater than a threat to sovereignty, it is a threat to human rights.”
There were also members of AIM (American Indian Movement) at the demonstration who pointed out that the day of action was held on the 71st birthday of activist Leonard Peltier. They called on President Obama to issue a pardon for his release before he leaves office.
“Forty years in prison is long enough,” protestors chanted.
Standing Rock Tribal Chair Dave Archambault said he’s been overwhelmed by the response to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“This started with prayer, this started with ceremony,” he said. “I think there is a spirit raising in all of us across this nation, across this world, saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ I’m not the one doing this, it’s beyond people. It’s the creator taking over.”