Historical trauma is one of the main factors that brought more than 300 Native American nations and thousands of people together at Standing Rock to fight and mobilize against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Dennis Banks, founder of the American Indian Movement, told Abby Martin in her latest episode of “The Empire Files.”
“Historical trauma is still with us,” Banks said adding that “When Standing Rock happened all this trauma” made other tribes across the United States say “hey we are gonna go support them at all costs.”
Over the past few weeks, the resistance movement to stop construction of the pipeline has brought together more than 300 Indigenous groups and sparked a wave of international solidarity.
The 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline was supposed to be up and running by the end of the year, transporting more than 470,000 barrels per day of crude oil through four states into Illinois before it hooks up to another pipeline heading down to Texas, but protests have all but halted construction.
Banks, a leader of the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff against U.S. marshals, FBI agents, and other law enforcement agencies, has been to the gathering at Standing Rock many times over the past ten weeks as he joins the action against the pipeline and advises organizers on how to carry on the fight.
“I have seen gatherings over the years but this was a gathering that had a different purpose,” Banks told Martin as he described the scenes.
“They are bringing their tribal flags. During the first two or three weeks, I saw one flag go up and I sensed a much stronger nation, a much stronger nationhood forming. And this what I felt was beautiful. I have not seen this kind of gathering and bringing in of support. I have never seen it in my entire life.”
Every time he came back to the camp he saw new flags go up and witnessed a building of community. “I would say within the sixth or seventh week it was no longer an encampment, it was a community,” he added.
Banks went on to talk about the history of Native American boarding schools in the U.S. during the 19th and early 20th century by which the successive governments “wanted to destroy our identities.”
Banks said he was one of the more than 100,000 Native children who was kidnapped by the U.S. government and taken to boarding schools.
When they came to take him, Banks was “fighting them off (saying) ‘where am I going, where am I going’ and my mom and my grandmother are there and I am trying to hold on to them and then they come and take us apart. Multiply that by 100,000 children who were taken.”
He further described the abuse in those boarding schools, from beatings and whippings to rape and other crimes. “I hear those screams. I still hear those screams to this day.”
Boarding schools and decades of hostile U.S. policies “destroyed the language, destroyed the songs. You couldn’t sing any native song, you couldn’t speak any native language,” he stressed.
But such historical trauma helped bring together the unprecedented support the world is witnessing at Standing Rock, according to the Native American activist and leader. He further vowed that “the pipeline struggle goes on. We will continue to battle them in court.”