The Touching Reasons Why Indigenous People In New Zealand And Australia Are Supporting The DAPL Protests

"As a First Nations man, I see, hear, and feel the pain."

Thanks to social media and the involvement of famous names like Bernie Sanders and actress Shailene Woodley, the Dakota Access Pipeline protest has recently gained national attention. But the multi-billion dollar construction project has faced strong opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and environmental activists since it was first proposed in 2014. 

Stretching 1,174 miles across four states, the pipeline's goal is to transport up to 570,000 barrels of light sweet crude oil a day. But its path skirts the Sioux reservation in North Dakota and critics argue that it would contaminate their drinking water and desecrate holy sites. 

Over recent months, the protest has grown in both size and scope. More than 300 tribal nations have come out to support the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and demonstrations in solidarity have sprung up in cities across the country, not to mention the activists and politicians who have joined the protest in North Dakota. Most recently, Obama acknowledged the protests and said that engineers are considering alternate routes for the pipeline.

But the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation is resonating deeply with the indigenous people in New Zealand and Australia, who are all too familiar with the struggle against governments and large, powerful corporations over their rights. 

Members of New Zealand's Maori tribe have taken to social media to express their support for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, posting videos of hakas, a traditional war dance performed on the battlefield, on a Facebook page, Haka With Standing Rock

Te Hamura Nikora, a local television personality, and Benita Tahuri created a haka and the Facebook page, encouraging other Maori to perform and share it there as a show of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

"When one group of relations is being hurt, [abused], being bullied, being ripped off, we all feel that, especially us as Maori, we are very much a leader to the indigenous people — they look up to us as those that have a treaty with the colonizer, and are able to stand to stop that sort of stuff happening to us," Nikora told Radio New Zealand.

The page, a mere week old, has racked up more than 18,400 members at the time of writing. Nikora and Tahuri are also raising funds to travel to Standing Rock to join the protests there, Radio New Zealand reported.

Meanwhile, indigenous Australians, too, have expressed their support for Native Americans on social media. Many joined the movement to aid protestors by checking in at the Standing Rock reservation on Facebook.

Joe Williams, a former National Rugby League player in Australia who later founded the suicide prevention and mental health education charity The Enemy Within, told A Plus in writing that he checked in at Standing Rock as a show of support.

"As a First Nations man, I see, hear, and feel the pain," he wrote. "It is our belief that First Nations people throughout the world are one big family. When family needs support, it is our obligation to show support. I know that if we needed support at home in Australia, First Nations from around the world would do the same. We go through the same struggles at home, the same oppression and non acknowledgment and disrespect of our pre-colonial cultural beliefs."

Joe Williams
Joe Williams

That sentiment of a united identity among indigenous peoples around the world was echoed from others, too. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, aboriginal journalist and Darumbul woman Amy McQuire said:

I was outraged by the treatment of Native American protesters, who are being threatened with arrest, intimidation, and excessive force simply for protecting their sacred country and precious waterways. Their struggle is an international Indigenous struggle, because we are facing similar fights over here — and so I think it's important we show solidarity in whatever way we can. This is just a small way we can fight against the colonial forces that are still in existence to this day.

Like Nikora and Tahuri, Williams plans to show his support in person; he will be traveling to Standing Rock next week to join the protests. Ultimately, his hope is that the demonstrations will bring about "universal acknowledgement of First Nations culture and the respect of the sacred land that is currently being disturbed and mistreated," he added. "I do believe that the pipeline will be built, however we can only hope that the outcome of the protest will lead to a more appropriate passage being built."

Cover image via Brent Olson / Shutterstock.com