Last year at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, representatives of Native tribes, as well as environmentalists and activists from across the world, came together to stand for Mother Earth and fight against corporate terrorism. And while the pipeline’s construction was approved by an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January, for many—both at the camps or watching in the media—it was the most momentous movement they had witnessed.

This past month, from September 18 to 24, hundreds gathered once again at the Standing Rock Reservation. This time it was for the Mní Wičoni Healing Gathering. “Mní Wičoni,” which became the call to action for the Standing Rock movement, roughly translates to “Water is Life” in the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota languages. Water Protectors, allies and supporters came together for healing, ceremony, reflection, strategizing, planning and celebration.

“You need to be able to share your struggle with the people that stood beside you,” said Cheryl Angel, a Sicangu Lakota elder who was in attendance. “The trauma that we experienced over the past year was so intense and healing is necessary to move on. We wanted to find an opportunity for those who participated to come back.”

Ayşe Gürsöz is a producer, photographer and digital storyteller. She is also a New Economies fellow with the Media Consortium. At Standing Rock, Ayse worked with Al Jazeera’s AJ+ Real Time news team to co-launch Indigenous Rising Media, an Indigenous-led media collective in collaboration with the Indigenous Environmental Network. Currently, she works with the Rainforest Action Network’s Climate and Energy program.

 

 

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    Photograph: Ayşe Gürsöz

    Last year, as water protectors faced down militarized police in Standing Rock, a solidarity movement grew in Seattle as activists called on the city to withdraw municipal funds from banks backing the Dakota Access pipeline. Jackie Fielder (Lakota, Mandan, Hidatsa) and Rachel Heaton (Muckleshoot) led the charge in getting major cities to pull billions from banks that supported the pipeline. They led a workshop at the Mní Wičoni Healing Gathering on their divestment work and strategies moving forward.

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    Photograph: Ayşe Gürsöz

    Phyllis Young (pictured second to right), offered her land to host the Mní Wičoni Healing Gathering at Porcupine Creek, Standing Rock Nation. Here she shares a moment of appreciation with Raymond Kingfisher, who emceed the week’s events.

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    Photograph: Ayşe Gürsöz

    Rachel Heaton and Jackie Fielder of Mazaska Talks present their workshop on divestment strategies at the Mní Wičoni Healing Gathering. This was the first time they met in person after months of organizing over the telephone and online.

    Mazaska Talks translates roughly to “Money Talks” in Lakota and is a network and resource hub for people across the country to divest their cities from banks that finance fossil fuel projects and related repression of indigenous and human rights. Says Heaton, “We found that when you talk to people on a personal basis and ask them which bank they use and tell them face-to-face, ‘Your money is contributing to these pipelines, your money is contributing to these militarized police, to all these things that don’t match our morals and values,’ then people take action.”

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    Photograph: Ayşe Gürsöz

    On March 13, 2017, the San Francisco Defund DAPL Coalition, launched by Jackie Fielder, got a resolution passed by San Francisco to divest $1.2B from companies financing DAPL. “In February, when I saw Seattle divest from Wells Fargo [one of the major banks funding DAPL], I decided, that’s got to happen in SF. So I pulled together an organization, it was just a Facebook page at the time, called the San Francisco Defund DAPL Coalition,” says Fielder. She and her team are now looking into public banking to move the money.

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    Photograph: Ayşe Gürsöz

    Autumn Chacon (Dine/Chicana), Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) and Michelle Cook (Diné Nation) present a workshop on taking indigenous-led divestment strategies to a global context.

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    Photograph: Ayşe Gürsöz

    Fielder and her partner, Lev, take a break from the gathering to teach kids how to fish on the Missouri River, just miles from where the Dakota Access Pipeline crosses. “It is very powerful to be back on what is my actually my ancestral homeland and my treaty territory,” she says.

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    Photograph: Ayşe Gürsöz

    Heaton’s daughter Naya writes a message of solidarity on a trailer which is headed to a Line 3 pipeline resistance camp. “[The little ones] are the ones who will be carrying the fight on for us,” says Heaton. “I can’t tell her to stand up for something if I myself am not standing up. “

    When built, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline would be one of the largest crude oil pipelines on the continent, carrying up to 915,000 barrels per day. First Nations, tribes, and communities along the pipeline corridor having been fighting for years to stop its completion.

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    Photograph: Ayşe Gürsöz

    The Love Water Bus, which was stationed at the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock last year, provides clean drinking water with a mobile water purification system.