How Greenpeace Is Showing Up As an Ally in the Dakota Access Pipeline Fight

by Lilian Molina

November 4, 2016

Showing solidarity with Standing Rock means actually listening to the Indigenous people leading the way.

#NoDAPL Solidarity Rally

Demonstrators in Philadelphia rally in solidarity with Standing Rock water protectors. Photo by Chris Baker Evens / Creative Commons.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve received a flood of questions from Greenpeace supporters like you wondering what we’re doing to support water protectors resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline. And I’m honored that people across the country see Greenpeace as a key ally in this fight.

I’ve been at Greenpeace for three years, and I’ve seen our organization gracefully take on the role of ally many times. But I’ve also seen us stumble as we figure out how to best lift up leaders on the frontlines.  

Because there is so much at stake in the #NoDAPL fight, I want to share with you parts of our journey to understand how to show up — or not — when supporting Indigenous leadership in this movement.

First, a Bit of History

“Big green” organizations — large, national, environmental non-profits like Greenpeace — have a problematic history of parachuting into frontline communities to “save them” or tokenize their struggles in the name of diversity. This trend goes back decades, but it’s only recently that big greens have begun to recognize and confront this practice as a major barrier to winning for the people and planet.  

That history makes the question of how to “show up” in the struggles of frontline communities — if at all — an important one.

Greenpeace has been very intentional about taking authentic and humble measures when entering communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel battles. Sometimes that means the most effective way we can support those allies is to “show up” without “showing up” — to act in solidarity without pulling focus from local leadership.

When we center our work around those most impacted — those leading the fights at the source — we all come out winning. In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, that means deferring to the leadership of Indigenous water protectors and lifting up their voices in everything we share with you, the Greenpeace community.

How Greenpeace Is ‘Showing Up’ in Support of Standing Rock

Back in August, we consulted with our allies on the ground at Standing Rock to determine the best ways we could support, and that resulted in some powerful collaborations that wouldn’t have been possible without Greenpeace supporters like you.

  • In August, we helped Indigenous People’s Power Project (IP3) lead non-violent direct action trainings at the camps, where they trained more than 400 people in how to take peaceful, meaningful direct action to stop the pipeline.
  • A few weeks later, we were able to bring a mobile solar installation to help power important infrastructure at the Sacred Stone Camp. Our “Rolling Sunlight” solar van even provided life support when the generator at the camp’s medic tent gave out.
  • In September, thousands of Greenpeace supporters across the country responded to the call from Standing Rock leaders and donated supplies to help water protectors stay at camp through the harsh North Dakota winter.
  • Last month, our research team exposed the many nefarious connections between Donald Trump, his advisers, and the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.

We could have used funds to send our own actions experts out to North Dakota; instead we deferred to IP3’s expertise and leadership. We could have used our resources to send our staff to Standing Rock to take pictures and capture footage; instead we’re working with Indigenous photographers and journalists documenting life at camp.

These decisions might seem small, but they go a long way in confronting the history of “big greens” stepping over frontline leadership.

How You Can Get Involved

Showing up behind the scenes may have been the best role we could play to support Standing Rock allies in the beginning, but that’s starting to change. Now that the call has been made by Indigenous leaders — and Greenpeace supporters like you — to do even more to back up protectors on the ground.

We’re answering that call, and we hope you’ll join us.

On November 15, thousands of people across the country will join a wave of actions to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Find a solidarity action near you and join the movement!

Lilian Molina

By Lilian Molina

Lilian Molina, LatinX-Mestiza raised in Chicago, is the Community Partnerships Manager with Greenpeace's Movement Support Hub.

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