Standing Rock protests spark support, fundraising efforts in Kahnawake
Money raised will go toward shelter, legal costs and preparing camp for winter
By Kalina Laframboise, CBC News, November 2, 2016
Ongoing protests over the construction of a four-state pipeline in North Dakota has struck a chord with Mohawks in Kahnawake.
Over the past few months, Indigenous groups have lobbied against the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
Opponents of the 1,900-kilometre pipeline being developed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners say it threatens the Missouri River, a source of drinking water for several American states.
The protests have inspired a fundraising initiative out of the First Nations community on Montreal’s South Shore and police raids on the anti-pipeline camp triggered Kahnawake Mohawks to hold demonstrations in solidarity.
Protesters briefly blocked the Mercier Bridge over the weekend.
“It hurts my heart,” said Loni McComber on Sunday from a camp at the base of the Mercier Bridge in support of pipeline protesters.
“It makes me feel really sad that, even now in 2016, that it’s allowed to go on like this for people just because they want fresh clean water.”
Timothy Armstrong, who works at Kahnawake radio station K103, says he felt compelled to visit Standing Rock in September.
Now, he’s organizing a benefit this Saturday in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue to raise money for the protesters’s expenses, including legal fees and equipment for winter.
“We have to keep going, we have to keep the pressure on,” said Armstrong.
He hopes the funds can help purchase larger tents and help prepare the camp as it starts to get colder.
“We need to have everything in place for them for the winter so they can last as long as they need to,” he said.
“You have just the elements. Thank God that the snow hasn’t come in yet.”
‘They haven’t brought arms’
With action being taken in Kahnawake and the promise of more protests on the horizon, support is also coming from a high-profile actor.
Action movie star Steven Seagal, who has relatives in Kahnawake, condemned law enforcement’s approach in Standing Rock.
“This really has the potential to either resolve itself peacefully or turn into another Wounded Knee,” Seagal told CBC News.
Seagal called upon police officers to reconsider their position.
“They’re peacefully demonstrating — they haven’t brought arms,” Seagal said.
“Now why people are bringing in armoured vehicles and shooting them with rubber bullets and concussion cannons and things like this is a little bit hard for me to understand.”
The pipeline protests have also drawn the concerns and condemnation from First Nations celebrities and artists in Quebec, including slam poetry artist, author and Innu activist Natasha Kanapé-Fontaine.
She publicly recited an unpublished poem in support of Standing Rock protesters, saying that they were “bigger than fear.”