The issue of constructing a pipeline in Standing Rock, which is significant for Native Americans, has been on the agenda of the US for a while. As a result of the resistance of many Americans, especially Natives, the project is canceled by Barack Obama. Prominent figures of the Armenian Diaspora also supported the resistance. Academic and activist Khatchig Mouradian, the leading figure in initiating American Armenians' support, assessed the developments.
The issue of
constructing a pipeline in Standing Rock, which is significant for
Native Americans, has been on the agenda of the US for a while. As a
result of the resistance of many Americans, especially Natives, the
project is canceled by Barack Obama. Along with Native Americans,
retired soldiers and veterans of the US army also supported the
resistance. Some soldiers apologized for the violence exercised on
Native Americans. Prominent figures of the Armenian Diaspora also
supported the resistance. Academic and activist Khatchig
Mouradian, the leading figure in initiating American Armenians'
support, assessed the developments.
What is the significance of Standing Rock for the Native Americans?
The construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL) and the violence against the water protectors and those who were resisting DAPL is far from being an isolated incident: Native Americans have been resisting similar efforts over the years all over the U.S. Moreover, it is important to note the direct link between the centuries of violence and dispossession and their current, more subtle, manifestations today. Standing Rock constitutes an unprecedented convergence of Native Americans tribes and fellow resisters from across the country, who took a stand and said, “Enough!” The movement succeeded—although the battle is not over—against powerful corporations, establishment politics, and a mainstream media that, by and large, remained silent.
How did you bring together the Armenians in the US for supporting the resistance of Native Americans?
Many Armenian American artists, activists, and intellectuals have been involved in the #NoDAPL movement over the past months, reporting from Standing Rock, joining the legal support team, participating in protests, and helping spread awareness on a number of platforms. I reached out to some of them in late November and, within 24 hours, we compiled a list of around 40 signatories, and released the statement.
Could you please explain the importance of the Armenians' support to Native Americans?
The legacies of the Armenian Genocide and the genocide of Native Americans carry chilling similarities. As descendants of survivors, we cannot remain silent in this struggle against unbridled, unashamed exploitation of nature and neglect of indigenous rights here in the U.S. I cannot struggle against the consequences of the Armenian genocide across the ocean, in Turkey, if I am an enabler or bystander here in the U.S. I stand with Standing Rock because I stand with Kamp Armen. I protest against police shootings of unarmed black men just like I demand justice for Hrant Dink, Sevag Balıkçı, and Tahir Elçi.
“We cannot remain silent against these acts”
More than 30 signatories include artist and activist Serj Tankian, actor and playwright Eric Bogosian, novelists Chris Bohjalian, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Aline Ohanesian, and Nancy Kricorian, artist and author Vahe Berberian, journalist and author Mark Arax, and journalist David Barsamian.
The statement notes that the construction of the pipeline threatens the environment and is a violation of Native American rights: "We, a group of Armenian American artists, scholars, and activists stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline threatens water sources and the environment and violates Native American sacred land. It constitutes a continuation of centuries-old policies of dispossession, destruction, and denial of indigenous people’s rights. As descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors, we cannot remain silent against these acts. We join our voices with the Standing Rock Sioux in rejecting DAPL."