Why Focus On Genocide?

We, Sonoma Solidarity with Standing Rock, launched the Standing Rock Genocide Prosecution Demand Campaign at the February 24th protest at SPO Partners in Mill Valley. Some of you may be thinking,

“Isn’t this overdoing it a bit? Genocide?” 

I know that most of us were not raised with any education about genocide. It was a term and then an international law that was written after the Nazi genocide of the Jews in Germany and eastern Europe. The United States took 40 years to ratify the Genocide Conventions after they were first ratified by the United Nations in December 9, 1948.  This was after the United States did all it could to undermine the effectiveness of this new law by having the U.N. remove the section on cultural genocide from the law.

The reason for this was that the U.S. would be in violation of this law immediately upon its ratification because of our treatment and policies toward American Indian nations, among others.


I have learned a great deal from both the writings and lectures of Ward Churchill, an American Indian Movement activist and historical scholar. So, I thought it would be good to let Ward explain the genocide of Indian people himself, rather than writing about it.

Here is a 29 minute lecture by Ward titled Genocide:


And here is a 1 hour 15 minute lecture titled Colonialism and Genocide, he gave in April, 2009


And here is a 56 minute lecture he gave November 11, 2005 on his book Kill the Indian, Save the Man, about the impact of the Indian Boarding School program in the U.S.:


All of these lectures are very important for us to understand if we want to effectively carry out this new campaign. Please take the time to watch/listen to all three.

If you want more information, read A Little Matter of Genocide – Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present (1997, City Lights Books) and Kill the Indian, Save the Man – The Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools (2004, City Lights Books) both by Ward Churchill.

When I initially put together the Big Mountain Genocide Demands in the late 1980s, Ward Churchill and attorney/fellow AIM activist from Colorado AIM, Glen Morris, helped us with the language we used in the final version of the Demand. At that time, before the internet, we had 30+ Big Mountain Support Groups participating in this campaign across the U.S. and also in Europe and Japan. In the U.S., Support Group members were taking this Demand to the U.S. Attorney in their area on coordinated dates. Our Japanese and European allies were taking the Demand to the U.S. Ambassador.


The Genocide Prosecution Demand Strategy

What we are saying with the Standing Rock Genocide Prosecution Demand is that we believe that the permitting, building and using of the Dakota Access Pipeline are part of a long history of genocide here in the United States that began when Columbus first landed in 1492. He started a campaign of genocide that all other European colonizers continued up through the policy behind the implementation of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

It was too dangerous to pipe the oil through the Bismarck, North Dakota community, so it was re-routed through Standing Rock tribal lands and under Lake Oahe, their main source of water. Destruction of sacred sites, the first acts of genocide, have already taken place. The pipeline workers knowingly destroyed sacred sites of the Standing Rock people. So, this is not something that will occur in the future.

Destroying sacred sites is “subjecting the Standing Rock Nation to conditions of life that are intended to bring about their physical destruction.” It is part of a long history of actions that have been used to make Indian people disappear – from killing the buffalo, to the massacre at Wounded Knee, to the boarding school program, to sterilization of Indian women by the Indian Health Service, to building an oil pipeline through sacred sites and underneath Lake Oahe, the primary source of water for the Standing Rock people.

Rather than feeling squeamish about using the word “genocide” to describe what is happening at Standing Rock, I would suggest that you take the time to understand the long history of genocide against Indian Nations across the U.S. and understand that genocide is the normal mode of action by the U.S. government when it comes to dealing with Indian Nations. With this long history, it is the government that needs to PROVE that their actions are not genocidal when it comes to policy and actions against Indian Nations. And it is our job to force this issue – in all struggles of Native Nations across the U.S. 

Local communities that support the Standing Rock struggle can use the Standing Rock Genocide Prosecution Demand in their local area.

Step 1:  find organizations that are invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline in one way or another and find the person responsible for this investment

Step 2: print out the documents in the Standing Rock Genocide Prosecution Demand documentation page, put them in a binder and then give them to the responsible investor and tell them that we will add their name to the list of those we are calling for the prosecution for the crime of inciting genocide if they do not divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Leave them the binder and set a time to come back for their answer.

When you go back and they tell you they refuse to divest after reading over the documentation left with them, you can then add them to the Criminals list and then print a leaflet with their names and pictures calling for their prosecution for the crime of inciting genocide and contact the media in your area with this information.

Step 3: Find the closest office of the United States Attorney to your location and bring the same binder to them and ask them to investigate the charges we outline in the Standing Rock Genocide Prosecution Demand. (They probably are unfamiliar with the Genocide Convention Implementation Act of 1987, so providing them with the documentation in the binder and even the book A Little Matter of Genocide – Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, is an important part of the campaign – educating the U. S. Attorney about this aspect of their job that it is pretty clear they are unfamiliar with.)  Again ask for a second appointment to come back for their answer after they have had a chance to review the documentation you provide them.

Step 4: Document the responses of all the groups and people you meet with and send them to me ( pat@civilresistanceworks.org ) so that we can build a database of responses all across the country.

This strategy will widen the number of U. S. Attorneys we bring the Genocide Prosecution Demand to, which will increase our chances of finding one that actually believes in justice and will do their job and prosecute the criminals we list and others they find.

( Go to the Genocide Prosecution Demand Documents page )