Award-winning filmmaker Sterlin Harjo declared on Facebook this weekend that he would be willing to walk about 800 miles from Ponca City, Oklahoma, to Standing Rock, North Dakota, the site of Native American-led protests to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Sunday afternoon, the Seminole-Muscogee director from Holdenville posted the following:
Most Oklahoma Tribes aren’t shipping folks to standing Rock. They are passing ‘resolutions’ of support. We should be walking to Standing Rock, we didn’t have your charter busses when we were marched to Oklahoma in the first place we don’t need them now. The way I see it if we lose this fight it sets a precedent for all tribal lands, including Oklahoma. Especially Oklahoma.
A Google Maps screenshot accompanied the post showing a route that estimated such a journey to take 10 days and 16 hours. But that would be walking nonstop. Factoring sleep and meals, the duration of the journey would take longer.
Sterlin Harjo promotes Native American rights
After some initial skepticism, the post sparked an outpouring of support from Harjo’s followers on the social media site. Offers of charter busses have been made in order to provide support for walkers as well as transport children, the elderly and the infirm.
One commenter argued the mode of transportation was beside the point and that support could be shown regardless of how protesters chose to arrive at Standing Rock.
“Sometimes you need to suffer,” Harjo wrote in response. “Sometimes you must make a statement.”
Harjo is no stranger to rights issues surrounding Native Americans. His films generally seek to highlight some of the hurdles facing tribal culture, and several deal with themes of loss, isolation and cultural deterioration. Harjo also serves as one of the directors of Osiyo, the Cherokee Nation’s monthly television news magazine. He is a founding member of the 1491s, a Native American comedy troupe.
Pipeline protest turns ugly, awaits court ruling
Similar resistance movements in Oklahoma mirror the ongoing North Dakota protests, which recently turned ugly when dogs and pepper spray were used on those in attendance. Plains All American Pipeline currently seeks to install its Red River Pipeline, which would extend 400 miles from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Longview, Texas, crossing tribal lands along the way, and opponents of that plan have organized on social media. The group recently turned a town hall meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, into a scene of protest when the City of Norman approved a permit for a pipeline project there.
A pending court decision scheduled to be delivered Sept. 9 hinges on the matter of proper consultation between the tribes and U.S. Corps of Engineers. Protestors began blocking the pipeline’s construction Aug. 10, almost one month earlier than the scheduled court ruling.
‘We are taught to suffer for others’
Reached by NonDoc Sunday evening, Harjo said that ruling will determine if his ostensible march would be in victory to celebrate with the tribes already present or in solidarity to raise further awareness about sovereign lands.
“I just know that as native people we are taught to suffer for others,” Harjo said via Facebook messenger. “We can walk for the people that can’t be there. The elderly and the sick. The people of Standing Rock need our support, (so) why not join them by trekking across the land that we, as humans, are sworn to protect?”