The Pipeline has Always Existed

 

Oka Lawa camp was started in March 2017 in South Eastern Oklahoma to fight the construction of the Diamond Pipeline.  The pipeline begins in Cushing, OK, who's claim to fame is being the 'pipeline crossroads of the world' and is slated to end in Memphis, TN after crossing through Oklahoma and Arkansas.  

 

 

 

    "We’re the first people who actually took others in.  Just because of the love for ourselves and others. To have that totally turned around and see the abuse and to experience it and see others with the same story and actually know the facts and statistics.  We just proved to the world that we don’t even need money, but when it comes to our positions as native people, I don’t even like saying ‘native people’, its a colonial term, but its how they determine us.  We deserve [our rights] because we once lived in harmony as human beings, we were connected to the land and water.  Now we’re fighting for it and some of our reservations don’t even have clean water.  What is it going be like when these pipelines or these extractions keep going?  whats going to happen to our populations?  whats going happen to our youth and children, our women and our elders?  Our traditions are already under attack, it’s a fight just to keep who we are, to understand who we are.  If you understand who you are then you’re going to be able to navigate through this world a lot better.  Sadly to say, economically, it has a huge impact on that, it leaves us at a disadvantage.  What happens if the millions of dollars that were de-invested in this pipeline were to go back to the reservation?  Go back to the people?  We’d be able to go back to our tribal ways of life.  It means a lot.  It’s sad to say that this western society has no connection to that.  That’s why they keep on doing what they’re doing.  We have something thats worth more.  Thats being indigenous, our languages, our culture, our traditions, our spirituality." 

 

    "Thats why we deserve it.  I wonder how many people within these corporate entities actually pray?  Actually got up and prayed, who actually practice their religion?  Then they use religion as a way to profit and if you’re not part of that religion you can’t get help or support economically.  We don’t have a religion, we have a way of life and its connected to this earth.  It’s like our umbilical cord.  Water is in everybody’s DNA.  For us to protect it is what makes us human.  All of us are related through water.  That’s what made this fight so huge.  Everyone found out that this isn’t just an indigenous issue, this is a human issue.  Being indigenous, we’re fighting for everybody.  It’s just sad to say, when you try to go to that indigenous way of life you find out that its the hardest, because its not about money."

 

Charles.  "The pipeline is a part of that history, whether it was there or not, it still existed back in time.  The pipeline always existed.  The pipeline is just another colonial aftermath.  They’re just…its a corporation, you know?  My brother once said that they came in here on boats and now they come in here in SUV’s.  Thats exactly what it is.  Thats the pipeline.  The pipeline is incarceration.  The pipeline is the foster care system.  The pipeline is the education.  It’s everything.  It’s the reservation, prisoner of war camps.  It’s the loss of identity, not even the loss of identity, the stripping of identity.  Just like they do to the ground, just like they do to these lands and water.  So, to implement that, thats something were interested in, we want to make an initiative to revitalize our communities.  To let them have something."

Charles.

 "The pipeline is a part of that history, whether it was there or not, it still existed back in time.  The pipeline always existed.  The pipeline is just another colonial aftermath.  They’re just…its a corporation, you know?  My brother once said that they came in here on boats and now they come in here in SUV’s.  Thats exactly what it is.  Thats the pipeline.  The pipeline is incarceration.  The pipeline is the foster care system.  The pipeline is the education.  It’s everything.  It’s the reservation, prisoner of war camps.  It’s the loss of identity, not even the loss of identity, the stripping of identity.  Just like they do to the ground, just like they do to these lands and water.  So, to implement that, thats something were interested in, we want to make an initiative to revitalize our communities.  To let them have something."

“are there any of your women back there that we can breed with?”   Jonathan, of the Choctaw Tribe, was working front gate security when a work truck with four white men pulled up and stopped.  They asked if they could join the camp because they heard that they could get payed $700 a day to be there.  Jonathan told them they don’t get payed, they’re here for free.  One of the men asked, “Are there any of your women back there that we can breed with?”  They drove away.  Down the dirt road.  Another in a string of harassing events that those at camp have faced.  “We think they must be pipeline workers, the trucks always have out of state plates.”  There is sometimes a feeling of tension at camp when there are only a few people around and it gets late.  Sitting around the fire you hear vehicles drive down the deserted road.  They stop, spotlights shine into the camp.  There is no way to know if it is pipeline workers, town folk or the Haskell County Sheriff.    Jonathan says he’s faced this his whole life.  Being called ‘prairie nigger’.  Feeling forced to cut his hair to avoid torment.  He knows women who have been raped and sexually harassed.  Native women face the highest rape and murder rates in the nation.  He told me that when that man asked his about ‘breeding with his women’ Jonathan wanted to knock him out.  “But I’m here in prayer he said.  I do whats right now.  I prayed for him.  I hope others will come here and pray to, they will learn how to stand up for their people. 

“are there any of your women back there that we can breed with?”

 

Jonathan, of the Choctaw Tribe, was working front gate security when a work truck with four white men pulled up and stopped.  They asked if they could join the camp because they heard that they could get payed $700 a day to be there.  Jonathan told them they don’t get payed, they’re here for free.  One of the men asked, “Are there any of your women back there that we can breed with?”  They drove away.  Down the dirt road.  Another in a string of harassing events that those at camp have faced.  “We think they must be pipeline workers, the trucks always have out of state plates.”  There is sometimes a feeling of tension at camp when there are only a few people around and it gets late.  Sitting around the fire you hear vehicles drive down the deserted road.  They stop, spotlights shine into the camp.  There is no way to know if it is pipeline workers, town folk or the Haskell County Sheriff. 

 

Jonathan says he’s faced this his whole life.  Being called ‘prairie nigger’.  Feeling forced to cut his hair to avoid torment.  He knows women who have been raped and sexually harassed.  Native women face the highest rape and murder rates in the nation.  He told me that when that man asked his about ‘breeding with his women’ Jonathan wanted to knock him out.  “But I’m here in prayer he said.  I do whats right now.  I prayed for him.  I hope others will come here and pray to, they will learn how to stand up for their people. 

Jake.  Diné.  

Jake.  Diné.  

Jonathan.  Fires are started every evening and before everyone lays down for sleep tobacco and cedar are burned.    

Jonathan.  Fires are started every evening and before everyone lays down for sleep tobacco and cedar are burned.    

Ashley.  Oglala Lakota and Absentee-Shawnee.

Ashley.  Oglala Lakota and Absentee-Shawnee.

Charles.  The front gate remains closed when people are in camp.  They have to be sure of everyone that comes in.  No weapons, alcohol or drugs are allowed.  You have to come in a good way.  

Charles.  The front gate remains closed when people are in camp.  They have to be sure of everyone that comes in.  No weapons, alcohol or drugs are allowed.  You have to come in a good way.  

           "It was kind of hard for me to hear that they’ve [The Choctaw] been stripped from their clan systems.  To find out who my clans are and where I come from, it makes me walk in that type of way, to know that I represent my mother and my grandmothers.  To come to Oklahoma, to hear the youth and the elders say they lost their clan systems, thats very difficult.  I couldn’t even imagine what they’re going through.  [They’re] coming here and doing positive stuff for the community and seeing our youth being told by colonial white folks that they want rape their women, like…I had to come down here and help.  Right now we just want to protect them and empower the youth to be proud of being Choctaw no matter whether their clan systems are gone or not.  We want them to be happy that they still have traditional ways they can practice, whether they feel lost or not, they can still find a way to get back to that.  And to learn the history, the Choctaw Confederacy, thats such an empowering thing to focus on.  Along with the pipeline."

           "It was kind of hard for me to hear that they’ve [The Choctaw] been stripped from their clan systems.  To find out who my clans are and where I come from, it makes me walk in that type of way, to know that I represent my mother and my grandmothers.  To come to Oklahoma, to hear the youth and the elders say they lost their clan systems, thats very difficult.  I couldn’t even imagine what they’re going through.  [They’re] coming here and doing positive stuff for the community and seeing our youth being told by colonial white folks that they want rape their women, like…I had to come down here and help.  Right now we just want to protect them and empower the youth to be proud of being Choctaw no matter whether their clan systems are gone or not.  We want them to be happy that they still have traditional ways they can practice, whether they feel lost or not, they can still find a way to get back to that.  And to learn the history, the Choctaw Confederacy, thats such an empowering thing to focus on.  Along with the pipeline."

Olivia.  Osage and Chichimeca.   Olivia was arrested on January 16th at the Valero Refinery in Memphis, TN, the endpoint for the Diamond Pipeline.  She, along with 11 others, locked their arms into 50 gallon drums filled with cement, blocking the entrance to the refinery for about 5 hours.  

Olivia.  Osage and Chichimeca.  

Olivia was arrested on January 16th at the Valero Refinery in Memphis, TN, the endpoint for the Diamond Pipeline.  She, along with 11 others, locked their arms into 50 gallon drums filled with cement, blocking the entrance to the refinery for about 5 hours.  

Jonathan.  Choctaw.  

Jonathan.  Choctaw.  

Jonathan building the fire for the opening weekend when the camp grew to over 50 people.  Song, Ceremony and Prayer took up the times in between speakers and nature walks.  Children and families spent the weekend in what was the calmest time the camp had yet seen.  

Jonathan building the fire for the opening weekend when the camp grew to over 50 people.  Song, Ceremony and Prayer took up the times in between speakers and nature walks.  Children and families spent the weekend in what was the calmest time the camp had yet seen.  

 There is little cell service around camp.  You have to drive to the nearest town of any size, which is Poteau, OK, to go to McDonalds for wifi and coffee.  

 There is little cell service around camp.  You have to drive to the nearest town of any size, which is Poteau, OK, to go to McDonalds for wifi and coffee.  

Ashley and Jake cooking breakfast.  Mornings are a time of calm after sometimes restless nights and before a day of building the camp up.  

Ashley and Jake cooking breakfast.  Mornings are a time of calm after sometimes restless nights and before a day of building the camp up.  

Families, visitors and allies gather around the fire on the opening weekend of the camp.  

Families, visitors and allies gather around the fire on the opening weekend of the camp.

 

Jonathan in front of the Choctaw (top) and Absentee-Shawnee (bottom) flags.  

Jonathan in front of the Choctaw (top) and Absentee-Shawnee (bottom) flags.  

The Choctaw and Absentee-Shawnee flags fly over the entrance to the camp.

The Choctaw and Absentee-Shawnee flags fly over the entrance to the camp.