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A movement against the construction of a multi-billion-dollar oil pipeline across Native American lands last winter spurred solidarity indigenous peoples and civil rights activists. Now, a new documentary premiering at the Sundance Film Festival explores the trials and tribulations of the "Water Protectors" who gathered to say "No" to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
"Akicita: The Battle of Standing Rock" chronicles the widespread opposition to DAPL, which drew thousands of people to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in the US state of North Dakota. According to local tribes, construction of the pipeline through their territories would contaminate the water supply, rendering it impure and unsuitable for use in religious ceremonies. Tribes also argued that the US government failed to consult with them before the project was allowed to proceed.
Many activists were hospitalised over the course of the demonstrations, injured by the "'less-than-lethal' weapons" used by police officials to disperse the crowd. US federal courts repeatedly denied requests to suspend the project, now in operation following an order last January from US President Donald Trump to expedite its completion. A number of Water Protectors were prosecuted for their actions – and in the 6 months since, the pipeline has leaked multiple times. But for indigenous activists featured in the documentary, like Kanahus Manuel, the film serves as a wake-up call to others about the injustices many Native communities still experience.
“I think [with] this collective consciousness right now that has awoken because of Standing Rock, people are really going to start supporting indigenous people", Manuel said. “And this film that’s going to be coming is going to be a real shock and awe for the world.”
So, what is the legacy of the movement against DAPL? In this episode, The Stream speaks with the documentary's producers to learn about the film and examine the challenges indigenous communities encounter as they fight to protect their rights.
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Director, "Akicita: The Battle of Standing Rock"
Mark Tilsen @DarkMark
Jenni Monet @jennimonet
How an artifact from Standing Rock protest made its way to American Indian museum - Washington Post
The Standing Rock Sioux Claim ‘Victory and Vindication’ in Court - The Atlantic
Keystone pipeline spills 5,000 barrels of oil in US - Al Jazeera
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