Why I'm ‘checking in’ at Standing Rock on Facebook – and why you should do the same too

This clever move by indigenous land protectors has seen a surge in international support for the struggle for land rights and self-determination, a battle that has been going on for centuries

Native Americans head to a rally at the State Capitol in Denver, Colorado, to protest in solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota
Native Americans head to a rally at the State Capitol in Denver, Colorado, to protest in solidarity with members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota

In April 2016, a handful of people opened a camp at Standing Rock in North Dakota to literally stand in the way of the destruction of lands sacred to Indigenous Peoples of North America by the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The planned $3.8bn (£3.1bn) pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of crude oil from the North Dakota Bakken oilfields to Illinois every single day. The pipeline development has already devastated sacred sites, threatened waterways and violated the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Nations living in the reserve and along the pipeline route.

In the months since, the camp has swelled to thousands, as campaigners join indigenous water and land protectors to secure their rights to the land. Their resistance has been met by escalating police violence, including dog attacks on women and children and increased surveillance of those entering the camp.

The call to “check in” to Standing Rock on Facebook – a simple click of a button which tells your followers where you are located on globe – came from indigenous activists as a strategy to tackle police surveillance. Police have been using information from Facebook and other social media sites to isolate and target individuals at the camp. Now almost one million supporters around the world have spuriously claimed to be in the same place, police can no longer identify those they wish to target.

Standing Rock protests continue: 'Water is life'

It’s a clever move by indigenous land protectors that has seen a surge in international support and solidarity for the struggle for land rights and self-determination, a battle that has been going on for centuries.

Thanks to these check-ins, the world is starting to wake up to the fact that the frontline of the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground and protect vital habitats is being led by indigenous communities such as that at Standing Rock. These communities have historically been subjected to cultural and industrial genocide and now they are at the forefront of the violence of a fossil fuel industry that refuses to switch to providing the renewable energy sources the world is demanding.

My hope is that the million people who “checked in” to Facebook at Standing Rock will continue to find ways to be allies to these communities long after the social media hype wanes. Keep checking in…

Check in with the banks and corporations that are invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline and other fossil fuel infrastructure that is devastating indigenous land and lives, and pushing us further down the path of polluting fossil fuels. Check in with your knowledge of history. Learn about the history of indigenous peoples and the source of the violence that is taking place in Standing Rock.

Check in with the global situation of indigenous peoples from the Canadian Tar Sands, to the Niger Delta and the Pacific Islands. These are global struggles that need care, attention and international solidarity as we build an international climate movement. If you already give money to major charities or campaign groups tackling climate change, consider switching your donations to smaller, grassroots groups leading the climate justice charge.

I believe this moment will be a tipping point in the fight to protect the world, its people and its precious climate. Let’s keep checking in and, in doing so, lifting up the water and life protectors on the frontline of this battle for humanity.

Suzanne Dhaliwal is director of the UK Tar Sands Network

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