Friday I went on a hike where I learned about the Trail of Tears. How white people forced the Cherokee to give up their lands and walk from Georgia to Arkansas and eventually to Oklahoma. How whites kept pushing the Cherokee out of their way for years, and how the Cherokee fought for the right to remain on their lands all the way to the US Supreme Court, who ruled in their favor, but President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the court ruling.
I learned that gold was found on Cherokee land in Georgia. White people wanted that gold, so the US army forced Cherokee people from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, held them in interment camps for months, then forced-marched them through the mud and the snow for up to 18 miles per day for 5 months with no shoes. Over one-third of them died, mostly the elderly and children.
I contrast that to today with the U S Army Corps of Engineers who, together with the oil industry, use local law enforcement and contracted thugs to attack the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters peacefully protesting for the right to maintain their sacred burial sites and for the right to clean drinking water. They lie about their tactics. “Oh, no, we didn’t use water cannons” when video clearly shows they did. “We didn’t use concussion grenades,” though a female protester’s arm was severely damaged after having been hit by one and she may lose that arm. They’re arresting journalists to prevent the truth from getting out about what’s happening.
It infuriates me to think that the feds sat on their asses and let Ammon Bundy and his armed thugs occupy federal lands, but to hell if they’ll let a bunch of peaceful Native Americans do so.
I am not by nature a peaceful person. It’s why the peaceful water protectors impress me so. They have been out there peacefully protesting since April. They’ve faced pepper spray, dog bites, water cannons in sub-freezing weather and other “non-lethal” means of torture sanctioned by local, state, and federal government. These brave women and men join the ranks of MLK and Ghandi in teaching us that violence only begets violence, whereas nonviolent resistance can bring the strong and powerful to their knees.
Will the Standing Rock Sioux prevail? I don’t know. I have no faith in white men in charge of anything, and they seem to be in charge of everything. And the rest of us seem to be more interested in our own immediate comforts than in anything else. I know I’m sitting in a warm house avoiding getting ready for work as I write this, not camped out in the cold as these people are.
But I have great respect for these peaceful protesters. I will stand with Standing Rock.