Changing Planet

Our ‘National Disgrace’: The Crime at Standing Rock

People protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline stand in semi-darkness in front of San Francisco City Hall, which has "NO DAPL" projected onto it. (Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen/CC BY-SA 4.0)
People have shown solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux across the U.S. and internationally. Here, protesters gather at San Francisco City Hall, which has “NO DAPL” projected onto it. (Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen/CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Jon Waterhouse with Mary Marshall

So. We come to the close of Native American Heritage Month.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution of Congress designating November “National American Indian Heritage Month,” and it has been so designated by every President and Congress since.

And yet, look at where we are today. Shockingly, we are reliving history! The worst parts of history!

The Native Americans of this country are fighting as “Water Protectors” against something we should all be fighting against: polluted water (get the background on Standing Rock). This fight goes beyond Standing Rock to places like Flint, Michigan and possibly to your own home town. In this month set aside to honor Native Americans, we have witnessed these proud People arrested and held in chain-link cages like you would use for animals. As they have gathered peacefully and exercised their constitutional rights, they have been shot with projectiles, percussion grenades, and sonic weapons. They have been tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, beaten, and assaulted with water cannons in subzero temperatures—by a fully militarized multi-state police force.

This treatment of Native Americans is a national disgrace.

What is their crime you ask? The same crime it’s always been. They were here first.

A quick review of history will tell you that as the European immigrants and their “manifest destiny” moved across this vast country, they encountered Native Americans. Driven by their greed, these new-comers demanded the original inhabitants step aside, and so conflict ensued. As the immigrants’ demands for more—always more!—land, gold, oil, etc., grew, so did this conflict, and it continues to today at the expense of honor, environment, health, and human rights.

This is happening right here in the good old U.S. of A. Are we—you, me—proud of this?

Native American men and women have defended the United States during wartime in greater percentages than any other demographic. And even though they were not allowed to be citizens until 1924, their intense patriotism has shone like a beacon. Once again, through their determination to protect the waters and lands of this country, they are showing us what true patriotism looks like.

It is time for the citizens and leaders of the United States to take a step back, take a good long look in the mirror, and ask, “Is this how I honor someone? Do I continue the legacy of genocide, cultural destruction, and broken treaties that began so long ago?”

If the answer is yes, ditch the Native American Heritage Month because it’s clear you don’t mean it.

If not, then there’s another question. Do you “Stand with Standing Rock,” alongside the Native Americans, as honorable warriors for human rights and the protection of the planet?

Please think about it.



Another Voice

Next, let me introduce you to Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe. Brian has been a friend for many years, but more importantly, he is a strong defender of justice. Here are his words on Standing Rock.


As always, thanks for reading.

—Jon & Mary



Dakota Access Pipeline Standoff: What You Need to Know

Jon Waterhouse’s destiny was foretold the moment he pushed his canoe off the bank of the Yukon River and started to paddle. That incredible 2007 canoe trip, which he christened “the Healing Journey,” began with a simple request by the native elders and tribal leaders living in the Yukon River watershed to "go out, take the pulse of the river." Waterhouse’s journey raised awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship, combined traditional native knowledge with modern science, and helped rebuild intimate connections between Yukon communities and the natural world. The journey soon stretched far beyond the Yukon and led the Native American down rivers and through cultures in distant parts of South America, Russia, Greenland, Africa, and New Zealand.
  • Veva


  • Melissa Mays

    We need to respect our water and the Water Protectors. Living in Flint has shown us how life can be destroyed when your water is contaminated. Respect.

  • Steven Chavez

    Our ‘National Disgrace’: The Crime at Standing Rock! and in November “National Native American Month”. What a disgrace we are to the world. Racist and Greed is American! And don’t go blaming things on Trump supporters. It Is YOU

  • Jane Coffey

    Very well said. It is not something to be proud of that we continue to ignore our history. We have pretended that no genocide took place in this country by our forefathers and we have looked the other way every generation since as to the ill-treatment of native americans. We also continue to ignore the fact that in many, many parts of this country people can no longer drink the water from beneath their land. The people at Standing Rock have every right to protest and protect their water, protect themselves, as history has shown someone else’s gain is always their lose.

  • Craig Olson

    It is truly a national disgrace. Police brutality and violence against peaceful protesters at Standing Rock is the perpetuation of over 500 years of colonial aggression, violence and greed. I produced a music video about it called “North Dakota Plains.” All proceeds go to help the brave water Protectors at Standing Rock, and not one cent goes to me. Please watch, share, and support our Native brothers and sisters as you are able.

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