Around the globe, land has become gold-standard currency. As a result, Indigenous and other land-based peoples face threats to the natural commons on which they live, produce food and sustain community, culture and cosmovision.
In some places, organized Indigenous movements have stood up and fought off extraction and corporate development, winning protection of waters, forests, territories and more. In most places, the resistance has been met with assassination and violent repression by state security forces and corporate-financed hit squads.
Two of the fiercest Native battles in the Americas today are closely connected. They are led by the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota and by the Lenca people in Honduras, organized through the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). Both are hard at work defending their territories and waters from further theft and desecration: At Standing Rock they are struggling against an oil pipeline being laid under their ancestral Missouri River, which they use for ceremony, drinking water and sustaining other life; on Lenca lands they are resisting the damming of their ancestral Gualcarque and other rivers.
In both cases, the movements face enormous stakes. And they both know that, as Howard Zinn said, “The power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below.” So they are challenging the power on top with shared strategies of mass mobilization and direct action. They both have the capacity to inspire the world, as seen by an outpouring of active solidarity with their uprisings from around the globe.
Each is enduring tremendous assault. Standing Rock Water Protectors have suffered dog attacks, water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures, rubber bullets and tear gas. Twenty-one-year-old activist Sophia Wilansky risks amputation of her arm after being hit by what witnesses claim was a concussion grenade. Vanessa Dundon may lose permanent sight in one eye after being hit with a tear gas canister. Red Fawn Fallis is in prison, facing a trumped-up federal charge. More than 500 others have been arrested.