The Lesson from Standing Rock: Organizing and Resistance Can Win

By Naomi Klein 

December 6, 2016

“Everyone here is aware that the fight is not over. The company will challenge the decision. Trump will try to reverse it. “The legal path is not yet clear, and the need to put financial pressure on the banks invested in the pipeline is more crucial than ever,” says Chase Iron Eyes, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attorney and member (and a recent congressional candidate).

Nor does today’s victory erase the need for justice and restitution for the string of shocking human-rights violations against the mainly Indigenous water protectors—the water cannons, the dog attacks, the hundreds arrested, the grave injuries inflicted by supposedly non-lethal weapons.

Still, there is more physical and psychic relief in this room than I have witnessed in my life. As Cody’s father, Don Two Bears, says when he arrives at the house, “It’s not over, but it’s a good day.”

For his son, what today means is that the real work can begin: building living and inspiring alternatives to water-polluting and climate-destabilizing fossil fuels. Leaning back on his leather chair, dressed in a red sweatshirt with the word “Warrior” emblazoned in black letters, Cody Two Bears reflects on the start of colonization, when his ancestors taught the Europeans to survive in a harsh and unfamiliar climate.

“We taught them how to grow food, keep warm, build longhouses.” But the taking never ended, from the Earth and from Indigenous people. And now, Two Bears says, “things are getting worse. So the first people of this land have to teach this country how to live again. By going green, by going renewable, by using the blessings the creator has given us: the sun and the wind.

“We are going to start in Native country. And we’re going to show the rest of the country how to live.””