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Grand Rapids Stands in Solidarity with the Water Protectors

February 23, 2017

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-12-24-59-amYesterday, about 100 people gathered at the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids to offer songs, prayers and stand in solidarity with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.

February 22nd was the day that the Water Protectors had to leave the OCETI SAKOWIN encampment. We now know that there were several arrests of Water Protectors at the encampment. For up to date analysis and reporting on what is happening at Standing Rock, check out the reporting from Unicorn Riot, both narrative and video. screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-12-29-32-am

The Grand Rapids Water is Life action began with songs and prayers being offered by members of the local Native community. Jonathan Rinehart welcomed those in attendance and provided some context for the action and what it means to the Native community. Here is a video of the open song.

After the welcoming, several Native speakers addressed the crowd, with most of them having spend a fair amount of time at Standing Rock, including Nancy Gallardo, Holly Lin Wood-Jones and Regis & Amos Ferland.

Each of these speakers had very moving stories to tell about their time at Standing Rock and why they believe that the resistance will continue and that they will win. Other Native speakers made the point that because of the resistance at Standing Rock, indigenous issues have been part of the public discourse in ways that has not happened for several decades. Words like sovereignty and treaty rights have now entered a larger part of the consciousness of Americans because Standing Rock has brought those issues to the forefront.

There were also some Native speakers who addressed environmental issues around renewable energy and how we treat the water and land. One Native speaker implored the crowd to vote with their dollars by making sure that how people spend their money or where they have their money doesn’t support oppression and exploitation. This point was emphasized, since the No DAPL campaign has been targeting the banks and other financial institutions that have provided the funds for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built.

After the speakers were finished at the Calder Plaza, people were invited to march through downtown and to cross the river and gather again at Ah Nab Awen Park. During the march people chanted and sometimes marched in the streets. Here are a few videos of the march:

Once people reached the Ah Nab Awen Park they were invited to take some tobacco and offer up their own prayers. The tobacco was then put in the water as an offering in solidarity with those at the OCETI SAKOWIN encampment facing eviction.

Another Native speaker talked about the importance of water in Native culture and spirituality.

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Once this part of the action was over, people marched back to other side of the river and ended up in front of the Chase Bank building, since JP Morgan Chase is one of the financial backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Grand Rapids Police were present throughout the entire action, but were particularly present when people gathered in front of the bank, since they anticipated that people might try to go in. This same action was attempted back in late December on the anniversary of the US Army massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. 

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