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News | Demonstrators stand in solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Nation

Several withdraw their accounts with TD Bank, Royal Bank of Canada

On Monday, November 7, protesters gathered in Victoria Square to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in their fight to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
The Dakota Access Pipeline, which would transport over half a million barrels of oil nearly 2,000 kilometres across the U.S. Midwest every day, was approved for construction earlier last summer without consulting the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. Many have come forward saying the pipeline’s construction threatens the Missouri River, an essential source of fresh water for the nation.

“The DAPL is slated to cross Lakota Treaty Territory at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,” reads the event’s Facebook page. “For months, the Standing Rock Sioux have been leading a protest against the construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been joined by thousands in what has been described as the biggest gathering of Indigenous movements in the U.S. in a hundred years.”

Since the protests began, many human rights violations have been recorded and protesters have repeatedly been targeted by police.

Solidarity with Standing Rock

Among those who spoke at the rally was Kenneth Deer, who, on the event’s Facebook page, is described as “a journalist and educator from Kahnawake, known for his involvement in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

“The brutality of the police force out there is unforgivable,” Deer said to the crowd. “There is no need for peaceful protesters who are defending the water and defending their land and their territory, defending their treaty rights, to be tear-gassed, to have rubber bullets being fired at them or bean bag rounds.”

“All of these activities and actions are absolutely unnecessary,” he continued. “Everybody has a right [to] peaceful protest. All of you here [in Victoria Square] are exercising your right to peaceful protest.”

“The brutality of the police force out there is unforgivable. There is no need for peaceful protesters who are defending the water and defending their land and their territory, defending their treaty rights, to be tear-gassed, to have rubber bullets being fired at them or bean bag rounds.”

“The environmental impact statement issued by the company itself confirmed that over three hundred and eighty [Indigenous] sites would be potentially destroyed by the pipeline project,” said Deer, stressing the the large scale destruction that the pipeline will cause to the land of the Sioux Nation.

Louellyn White, an associate professor of First People Studies in Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs, also spoke, highlighting the issues of sovereignty with regards to Indigenous lands.

“The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 that delineated the boundaries for the great Sioux Nation […] was repeatedly aggregated […] and that land has been greatly diminished,” said Louellyn White, an associate professor of First People Studies in Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs, reminding demonstrators that Standing Rock is yet another battle in a long and painful war between Indigenous people and colonial governments.

The provisions of that treaty said, “In exchange for use of your land, we will protect you from white settlers and we will provide annuities, education, [and] food – none of that happened,” she added. White also reminded the crowd that the land the protestors at Standing Rock are defending is unceded territory, and it is just a small fraction of the territory that the Sioux people once claimed as their own.

“The environmental impact statement issued by the company itself confirmed that over three hundred and eighty [Indigenous] sites would be potentially destroyed by the pipeline project.”

Professor White also invoked an old divination of the Lakota people: “You may have heard of the black snake prophecy of the Lakota people. ‘A black snake will come to the territory and will poison the land and will poison the air, it will poison the people.’ How do you defeat that black snake? You defeat that black snake by cutting off its head.”

Banks complicit in oppression

Professor White concluded her address by referencing the end goal of the protest: to put pressure on Canadian banks that are partially responsible for funding the DAPL and other pipelines across the United States and Canada. She implied that these banks were the head of the “black snake” and in order to defeat the DAPL, individuals have to divest from institutions that support human rights and environmental violations.

Protesters subsequently marched from Victoria Square along Rue Saint-Antoine Ouest and made their first stop in front of the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec, which has shares in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The protesters then marched west on Viger Ouest, then north on St-Alexandre and west again on René-Lévesque to the Montreal headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), where the march ended.

“You may have heard of the black snake prophecy of the Lakota people. ‘A black snake will come to the territory and will poison the land and will poison the air, it will poison the people.’ How do you defeat that black snake? You defeat that black snake by cutting off its head.”

Protesters prepared to enter bank locations in the area, including RBC, TD Bank, and Scotiabank, where they would divest, withdrawing from their bank accounts.

The large group broke into three smaller groups (for the three banks), but those outside RBC grew angry and confused very quickly when they came face-to-face with police officers unwilling to allow them access to the building, despite possessing RBC bank cards. Officers eventually agreed to let people in, but only one person at a time.

Divesting from pipelines

The first person to be let in was a young woman named Kara. After the teller told her RBC would not be divesting from the DAPL, she withdrew all her money from the bank.

“I walked in,” said Kara in French an interview with The Daily, “and I […] said ‘I don’t want to continue [being part of] a bank that […] invests in pipelines, with money that I give to RBC.’ Why would I invest in that? […] A woman said ‘fine, whatever, please wait in line to talk to someone at the counter.’”

White was the second person to enter the bank.

“I walked in, and I […] said ‘I don’t want to continue [being part of] a bank that […] invests in pipelines, with money that I give to RBC.’ Why would I invest in that? […] A woman said ‘fine, whatever, please wait in line to talk to someone at the counter.’”

“They let me in and they escorted me into the RBC branch […] there was quite a number of people just standing around […] they seemed to be really on the defensive and concerned,” she told The Daily in an interview.

She voiced her concerns with the branch and the moral implications of continuing to bank with RBC. “As an individual, I have accounts with RBC, and RBC has been contributing to the big oil industry,” she told RBC managers. “I cannot support that, therefore I’m divesting from RBC, and I know you don’t have a lot of power yourself to do anything, but I want to take my money out of RBC because I can’t support that.”

When asked if the individuals she encountered within the branch demonstrated any remorse for having lost her business, Professor White responded, “No, and I don’t think you’re gonna get that […] even at the management level they’re probably oblivious to the investments that RBC makes with these oil companies. I don’t think they’re really aware of it, but hopefully through these actions they’ll become more aware.”


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