Published October 10, 2016
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK — Over 150 people formed a flash mob round dance for over 45 minutes at the DestinyUSA mall today to raise awareness of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the defense of Sioux lands and waters from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Led by Haudenosaunee singers and drummers, the assembled dancers were a mixture of Indigenous Peoples and local non-Indigenous allies, carrying signs reading “Water is Life,” “Solidarity with Standing Rock,” “#noDAPL,” and “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” The singers’ voices echoed through the mall as people danced at the ground level, attracting onlookers and supporters joining in, and peering down from levels above.
“We are dancing in order to get the word out,” explained organizer Sarah Patterson, of the Onondaga Nation. “Our people are still here. Over 300 native nations have gathered in North Dakota and around the world in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the media needs to be paying attention. Indigenous peoples are coming together in defense of Mother Earth.”
The Standing Rock Sioux are in a desperate struggle to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens the waters of the Missouri River, numerous cultural sites, and the climate of Mother Earth. Thousands of people have joined the Lakota at multiple peaceful prayer camps along the pipeline, representing over 300 Native Nations. Defenders have taken direct action to stop the construction of the pipeline.
“Colonization continues today,” explained organizer Awhenjiosta Myers, of the Onondaga Nation. “This is about the power of the oil and gas industry to take land – affecting not just indigenous peoples but anyone who lives in the path of pipeline, or values clean air and water. Water is life. It’s crazy to be building more pipelines when we know the burning of fossil fuels is the leading cause of climate change.”
Recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is gaining momentum across the United States as an alternative to Columbus Day, which many feel celebrates the sordid history of 500 years of colonization. Just last week, Vermont joined the states formally recognizing the holiday. Syracuse University and the entire State University of New York college system announced they are honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year.
The Standing Rock Sioux’ struggle to protect their water resonates deeply with the Haudenosaunee, whose sacred waters of Onondaga Lake have been badly polluted by outside industry over the past 130 years, depriving them, and the residents of Central New York, of safe use of these waters. The DestinyUSA mall sits on the edge of Onondaga Lake, within the Onondaga Nation’s traditional territory. Onondaga Lake is extremely important to the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Six Nations, or Iroquois Confederacy) as the location where the Peacemaker brought together the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations over 1000 years ago to form their confederacy. DestinyUSA was built at the approximate location of a former Onondaga village called Ka-ne-en-da.
The Onondaga Nation issued a solidarity statement on August 24, and many Onondagas and other Haudenosaunee have made the trip to Standing Rock with supplies for the camp. There are multiple fundraising events ongoing locally, including a concert at the Onondaga Nation on October 22 from 3-6 PM at the Pavilion. Proceeds will support the purchase of winter tents for the camps, which are already faced with below freezing weather.