How NOT To Do Activism

On November 1st, Arianna Nason posted the following description on Facebook regarding a situation that occurred at the North Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Her impassioned post perfectly describes how a misguided approach to activism can unintentionally exacerbate the situation.  It is a great reminder to all of us on how the best intentions can often go astray, and how a sincere desire to help can easily turn into yet another assertion of privilege when we fail to keep our egos in check.

Back at Oceti Sakowin. What I've experienced today has been painful and gross. White men took over the Indigenous lead direct action training. I was talked down to again and again by non-Indigenous folk, acting like they own the camp because they hold down their own tent.

Then there was a call for all available women at the camp to go to the Spirit Fire for a meeting. Curious, I went. It was led by 2 white women, looked like the usual type you would see at the festival circuit or Burning Man. They made a circle and asked what "we as united women feel united by under the goddess, because we've seen what men have been doing and it's so divided." They policed how we talked, told us to not talk out of turn and to hold comments for later. Another white woman told the Fire Keepers, the men tending the spirit fire as it is their traditional role, to "keep it down and stop talking, because women are having a meeting." My blood boiled, but I kept waiting. I had to walk away for a bit, but when I returned an Oceti Sakowin woman was speaking, and she felt the same pain I did. She told the women at the circle how disrespectful they were being by not honoring the ceremonial request to wear skirts, and that this is her home and make space for the other Indigenous women from this land. She asked me to speak up after, she could feel my energy.

I told the white women in this circle that they must keep Indigenous women centered here, especially the women from Oceti Sakowin. And where were the elders? Why aren't our elders holding this? I told them how colonized this felt, how by telling us Indigenous women how to speak and when to speak that they're perpetuating the harm that is continued to be done to us. I said how gross this made me feel.

I'm disgusted by the Burners and same types at camp. I'm not surprised that they showed up and are trying to take over our movement and our ceremony, but I'm not any less disgusted.

Indigenous folks coming up, guard your heart and spirits. POC allies, please hug us and love on us. We need it. White allies, collect your people. Center us. Keep Indigenous women and two spirited people at the center of this. Keep all Indigenous people in the main focus.

My heart is sick.

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