The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been fighting the nearly-complete Dakota Access Pipeline which is set to run through sacred burial sites and the water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST). The project has confronted months of legal and organized resistance by the SRST and their allies throughout the U.S. and abroad, first sparked by Native youth.
Since then, Native nations have come together on this issue as a display of unity and solidarity, showing the world the resiliency and endurance of Indigenous peoples, all recognizing that this fight is not just for the local tribes. Choosing to identify themselves as ‘protectors’ instead of ‘protesters’, those at the frontline are looking at the bigger picture by fighting for a healthier environment for everyone.
Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) recognizes that the protection of the water, land, and the vitality of the Standing Rock youth goes beyond the DAPL protests. With an invitation from the tribe, NAP held its first Generation Indigenous regional gathering and a funder tour from October 17-21, 2016 on the Standing Rock reservation. The regional gathering served as an introduction for the tribe to the philanthropic sector through NAP’s Art of Reciprocity (AoR) program. AoR is a training curriculum that provides a framework understanding of fund development through a Native-lens. You can read more about AoR at Standing Rock here.
A welcome dinner featured a dance presentation from the Fort Yates Singers and local youth showcasing different dance styles. The group was also treated to a few opening songs by the Sitting Bull College Lakota Immersion Nest. Jay Taken Alive, a tribal elder, set the context for the tour, giving some history of the Standing Rock SRST and cultural education.
The funder tour brought together representatives from various foundations who are interested in getting funding to the DAPL activists and Standing Rock tribe as well as helping to spread the word about the need and realities the tribe and camps are facing. Since national news coverage of the situation has been scarce, people have relied on social media updates, livestreams and word-of-mouth to keep up with the frontlines. This tour allowed funders to get a feel of the campsites housing the activists and the ways it has grown over the months. As the weather gets colder and confrontations get more tense, calling for greater numbers in opposition, the campsites continue to rely on donations to be sustainable. Funders got to see firsthand the well-managed but voluntary organization of the camps and services being provided within such as the youth school and medical tent. The community and coalition of the activists was visibly strong, always keeping the objective of protecting water and sacred sites at the forefront of everything they do.
In showcasing possible long-term investments, six tribal programs presented to our group in short lightning round sessions. These programs focused on the vitality and well-being of their Native youth, language preservation, and workforce development within the tribe. Funders were also introduced to Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, hearing from the Chairman himself on what challenges the tribe is facing with upkeeping the camps and their own community, and the opportunities for development. Dr. Michael Yellow Bird’s presentation on The Indigenous Lifecourse report closed the programming.
NAP wants to thank those who participated on the tour, both the funders who took the time to join us on the ground at Standing Rock and the tribe for welcoming and hosting us. This experience will stay with us and will guide our work as we continue to Stand with Standing Rock.