Heather Bear was inspired to show her support for the water protectors in Standing Rock, N.D., after the recent Husky Oil spill in the North Saskatchewan River, affecting several Saskatchewan communities she represents.
Bear travelled to Standing Rock twice and says, “It would have been simply wrong for me not to go and support and bring our story there.” She says it’s not a matter of if a similar spill would happen in North Dakota, but when.
Bear is the vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).
One of the Saskatchewan communities she is particularly concerned about is the Cumberland House Delta, which is home to endangered species and is downstream from the Husky Oil spill. Bear worries about the effects of the spill on an already vulnerable habitat.
Protesters say the Dakota Access Pipeline threatens lands, sacred sites and water in Standing Rock and communities along the proposed pipeline route. Thousands have gathered at the Sacred Stone Camp, in an attempt to stop construction. Although a temporary restraining order was issued, two miles of Standing Rock Sioux’s sacred burial grounds have already been bulldozed. There is still a chance that construction will resume.
Bear, who is a member of Ochapowace First Nation, brought her ceremonial headdress to the camp. She explains that it symbolizes Mother Earth, the first law-maker. It also represents indigenous people’s understanding of balance and how to take care of the land.
The important thing for the world to understand, says Bear, is that “It’s a matter of life and death, not only for the people of Standing Rock, but for the people of the world.” She stresses that this is not an us-versus-them fight. She explains that the Standing Rock people are fighting for the benefit of all people, since we all rely on the land and water for survival.
In Saskatchewan, Chris Standing, an interpreter at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, has organized a flash mob round dance in support of Standing Rock. It will be held on Nov. 3 at the Midtown Plaza in Saskatoon at 7 p.m. Flash mob round dances are often held in shopping malls and have become a symbol of the Idle-No-More movement. “What I think Standing Rock is doing is raising awareness for all resource extraction issues for Indigenous people all over North America," Standing says.
“And hopefully in our area (it) will also open their eyes to what’s going on here and the oil spills that happen in Saskatchewan too.”
He recognizes the value for his own family in protecting all waters that the world relies on so heavily for survival. He wants to “keep the water safe so my nephew, my future kids and grandkids, they can at least make it through the next generation.”