PRESS RELEASE Friday 25th November 2016
Delegates at the National Māori and Indigenous (MAI) Doctoral Conference, being held at Victoria University of Wellington, today voiced their collective support to the Sioux nation of North Dakota at Standing Rock.
University of Auckland MAI academic leader, Dr Mera Lee-Penehira states, “The people occupying Standing Rock are being subjected to the same and worse levels of police brutality and intimidation we suffered here in the 1970s on Bastion Point, and again during the shameful Spring Bok tour. It is our duty to speak out against such atrocities.”
The long standing disagreement between the U.S. Government and the Sioux Nation centres on what has become known as the Dakota access pipeline. It will cut across the sacred lands of the Sioux Nation, presenting a serious threat to both land and waterways. “It’s an issue of serious risk to environmental sustainability and an issue of the sovereign right of native peoples to protect their land and to protect water, the very essence of life”, said Dr Lee-Penehira.
In her keynote address, Harvard graduate and lawyer Natalie Allan-Coates said, “The people at Standing Rock have called for support from Māori, our strength and solidarity is important to them. We need to do whatever we can to help.” Mrs Allan-Coates recently visited Standing Rock and spent some time working with the onsite legal advisory team.
Mrs Allan-Coates was joined by keynote speaker Kingi Snelgar in condemning the current violence of both private security firms and state authorities. As a human rights observor at Standing Rock Mr Snelgar noted, “The violation of human rights has to be brought to the world’s attention and it has to stop.”
Tāwhanga Nopera, University of Waikato doctoral candidate states, “It is unacceptable that Indigenous peoples, who are simply exercising their sovereign right to peacefully protect their lands and waterways, are subjected to such violence and degredation. We must say something and show solidarity”
Conference delegates voiced their commitment and solidarity to Standing Rock as Māori and Indigenous academics. Associate Professor Leonie Pihama, Director of Te Kotahi Research Institute (University of Waikato) says “A key role for Māori and Indigenous scholars is to to challenge the continued oppression of our peoples both locally and across the globe. We must not be complacent. The Protectors at Standing Rock are standing to protect this planet, Papatūānuku, for all people. They are placing their lives on the line to ensure that current and future generations have access to life sustaining water. We have an obligation to both bear witness and to voice our strong support for their stand”
1. Mera Lee-Penehira
2. Natalie Allan-Coates