As The Bamboos Sway: Why Igorots should stand with the Indians at Standing Rock


Why should the Igorots of the Cordilleras, Lumads of Mindanao, and other indigenous peoples of the world stand with the Indians at Standing Rock who are currently protecting their source of water and sacred lands in Dakota in the United States?

Do we know, do we remember, do we even care about what happened to the Igorots and their lands when the Ambuklao and Binga Dams were constructed? Do we know, do we remember, do we even care about what happened to the Igorots and their lands when foreigners started to divest the minerals like gold, silver, copper, etc. from the mountains of the Igorots?

Apart from the displacements of the Igorots in building the dams, in a United Nations case study dated August 2007, the report said the mines in the Northern Luzon Cordilleras since 1903 had caused mountains to be moved, farmlands to sink, villagers to be displaced, rivers to be polluted with tailings. With their forests and farmlands gone, the Igorots, specially those from Benguet, were deprived of their hunting grounds and their agricultural produce.

As I have written in an earlier article, “the promise of employment was limited to several Igorots who had to mine their own gold for the investors who siphoned their profits out of the country. Most of the miners were housed in squalid quarters while the investors were in their mansions.

“In the end, the Igorots became beggars in their own mountains of gold, ostracized as dirty and to be shunned. In the end, when the mine investors had exhausted the minerals from the bowels of the earth, they left polluted rivers with tailings that could not properly irrigate lands downstream, used to be farmland totally defaced from the mountains.

“You can almost hear the investors saying, ‘Oh! Well!’”

In the Standing Rock case, the Indians are now protecting, not protesting, their water source and their sacred grounds which are rightfully theirs based on a treaty penned in 1868. History has it that ‘the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was originally established as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. Article 2 of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of April 29, 1868 described the boundaries of the Great Sioux Reservation, as commencing on the 46th parallel of north latitude to the east bank of Missouri River, south along the east bank to the Nebraska line, then west to the 104th parallel of west longitude.”

For months now, the Indians and their supporters had been camping trying to protect said water source and lands against the Dakota Access Pipeline which is a 1,885 km crude oil delivery pipeline running from Bakken, North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. If completed, it will transport as many as 570,000 barrels of oil per day. The Indians “argue that the construction of this pipeline infringes on Native American land, and has the potential to damage the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe…they allege the pipeline threatens their environmental and economic well-being and would damage and destroy sites of historic, religious and cultural significance. The tribe say that because the pipeline goes underneath Lake Oahe, approximately half a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation, leaks from the pipeline could directly affect the tribe’s ancestral lands and water supply.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline project showcases everything wrong with corporate America. We, the people, deposit our hard-earned monies in banks for pittance interests. $3.7 Billion is being borrowed from 17 banks by the oil related companies to finance the project. That is our money being used so these companies could make humongous profit out of the project. Despite the development benefits they are harping, they are disregarding the potential hazardous environmental impacts to the river which traverses hallowed Indian lands – for which reason the Indians are claiming that they are against the project to protect their water. The State has been showing its fascist fangs against the protectors – arresting them, shooting them with rubber bullets, spraying them with tear gas and cannon water, attacking them with dogs, clubbing them, and the like. The Obama administration is not doing anything for it has received lobby contributions from said companies and disregards past treaties made with the Indians to have their lands protected. Hilary Clinton made a statement during her campaign that she would have decided in favor of majority interests (read: the Indians are a minority, send in the cavalry). Donald Trump is not saying anything because he has stock interests with the companies involved in the project. This shows the government and its fascists troops are primarily for the corporate against the people. And the mainstream media would not have started to cover the atrocities committed at the site and the project itself if not for the overwhelming cries from social media.

Based on the above, this fight of the Indians is not just a fight by and for the Indians against the North Dakota Pipeline Project.

The encroachment of foreigners in the lands of the Igorots, Lumads, and other indigenous peoples of the world does not, like in Dakota, regard the destruction of the environment and dislocation of the people. And when the people resist, the State always shows its fangs. We have seen this in the murder of Macliing Dulag in his opposition against the Chico River Dam Project by elements of the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in April 24, 1980. The proposed dam’s reservoir threatened to drown 1,400 square-kilometers of traditional highland villages and ancestral domains in the modern-day provinces of Mountain Province, Kalinga and Apayao. Inspired with the martyrdom of Macliing, the unified resistance of the various peoples of the Cordillera Mountains against the proposed dam for three decades, made both the World Bank and the Marcos regime to eventually abandon the project.

At present, although Gina Lopez, the new Environment Secretary Gina Lopez had placed moratorium and cracked down on several mining firms in the country, there are those like Surigao Del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. who called her “crazy” claiming that the mining sector contributes to the economy of the Philippines.

For this, the Igorots, Lumads, and other indigenous peoples should always be on guard as protectors of their lands like the Indians. We are not against development. We are against lopsided development. The rights of the people should not be trampled upon in favor of profit for a few and so called benefit of the majority.

In the final analysis, we should always consider the question: for whom, really, is development.

The Igorots, Lumads, and other indigenous peoples of the world should learn and stand with the Indians in Dakota and keep the spirit of Macliing Dulag alive. #


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.