Solidarity with Standing Rock rallies gaining ground in the Thompson-Okanagan - InfoNews

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Solidarity with Standing Rock rallies gaining ground in the Thompson-Okanagan

Image Credit: Contributed/Jody Leon
November 07, 2016 - 2:30 PM

"WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS, NOT PROTESTORS"

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Demonstrations in support of the anti-Dakota access pipeline rallies in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, sparked by the the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, are now popping up in B.C.'s southern Interior. 

Handmade signs, spiritual round dances, prayer and rhythmic beating of drums mark the recent solidarity rallies held in Vernon and Kelowna.

Vernon rally organizer Jody Leon, of the Secwepmec nation, with lineage from northern B.C., became aware of the anti-Dakota access pipeline movement when she saw journalist Amy Goodman's coverage of the demonstrations for Democracy Now.

"When I saw it I cried, it was so touching. There were all these different people, religions and races converging. It was amazing. People are coming together in a very spiritual way," Leon says.

The language being used to describe these demonstrators is vital, according to Leon. She says it's very important that supporters of the anti-Dakota access pipeline demonstrations should be referred to as 'water protectors,' not 'protestors.'

An important theme at these demonstrations is that people opposed to the Dakota-access pipeline are 'protectors,' not 'protestors.'
An important theme at these demonstrations is that people opposed to the Dakota-access pipeline are 'protectors,' not 'protestors.'
Image Credit: Contributed/Randy Millis

The Vernon rally took place at the Village Green Mall on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Organizers and participants took part in a round dance of prayer and unity while rythmic hand drumming filled the space.

"The round dance is supposed to bring people together. It's done in friendship and peace. This was beautiful. People started crying. It seemed like they had been waiting to come together in unity like this. People were hugging each other, they needed this," Leon says.

Leon and other organizers are trying to raise enough money to rent a charter bus and travel to the site where the pipeline demonstrations are taking place.

Leon is collecting donations for the bus, and for food and accommodation on the journey. She is hoping to house the group in a large hall or church. Winter gear is also a welcome donation because North Dakota could soon see harsh winter conditions.

Leon says every donation she's received has been documented and is accounted for. If people want a receipt for the donation, she can provide one. She says anything extra will go to those holding demonstrations in North Dakota.

In August, Leon travelled to the demonstrations and brought two elders and a youth along with her. Leon and company went to meet with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who wanted to bring spiritual people to the site.

In August, Vernon rally organizer Jody Leon travelled to the demonstrations in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. She is seen in this photo standing second from the right.
In August, Vernon rally organizer Jody Leon travelled to the demonstrations in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. She is seen in this photo standing second from the right.
Image Credit: Contributed/Jody Leon

"One of the elders we met with had an eagle fan and was praying. They told a sheriff that they were praying for them and sending them love," Leon says.

According to Leon, the government responded to these demonstrations with militarized gear.

"The human rights violations are out of this world. It's so hard to believe that anyone could treat anyone like this," Leon says. "In peaceful movements, the only thing people have to defend themselves is their own spirituality, strength in numbers, and people offering their own resources."

Vernon isn't alone in showing support for Standing Rock. Randy Millis attended the demonstration in Kelowna on Sunday, Nov. 6, held at the Stuart Park ice rink.

The Nov. 6, 2016 solidarity with Standing Rock rally in Kelowna.
The Nov. 6, 2016 solidarity with Standing Rock rally in Kelowna.
Image Credit: Contributed/Randy Millis

Millis says organizers estimate there were anywhere from 350 to 400 people in attendance.

"I think one of the key themes that came out was that people want to be known as water protectors, not water protestors," Millis says. "Water is life and as city dwellers, we modern people forget about how important it really is."

Demonstrators brought homemade signs to the solidarity with Standing Rock rallies.The photos above were taken at the Nov. 6, 2016 rally in Kelowna.
Demonstrators brought homemade signs to the solidarity with Standing Rock rallies.The photos above were taken at the Nov. 6, 2016 rally in Kelowna.
Image Credit: Contributed/Randy Millis

Millis says the human rights violations reportedly happening in North Dakota shocked him.

"It's hard to fathom that these things are happening in 2016," Millis says.

On Thursday, Nov. 10, there will be a solidarity rally in Kamloops.

The Nov. 6, 2016 solidarity with Standing Rock rally in Kelowna.
The Nov. 6, 2016 solidarity with Standing Rock rally in Kelowna.
Image Credit: Contributed/Randy Millis

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