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wp Indigenous West Papuans send solidarity to Standing Rock

December 4, 2016

Indigenous West Papuans send solidarity to Standing Rock

By PMC Editor
December 5, 2016

A previous activist video on West Papua Independence Day. Video: Free West Papua

Indigenous groups from around Oceania have sent their support to the ongoing struggle in North Dakota in the United States.

While protesters at Standing Rock and West Papua may seem worlds apart, they share a common bond from an indigenous struggle against a larger oppressor, says West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda in a letter of solidarity and friendship.

“On behalf of the people of West Papua we offer solidarity to our indigenous brothers and sisters as we intimately understand the complicated struggles they are facing,” said Wenda via his website.

While last Thursday marked “West Papuan Independence Day,” the indigenous Melanesian people in West Papua are still subject to neo-colonial rule by Indonesia and have been struggling for independence for more than five decades.

West Papuans raising the banned Morning Star flag in defiance of Indonesian authorities in Yahukimo in the Highlands last Thursday. Image: Benny Wenda

Wenda said his independence movement was drawing parallels and inspiration from the ongoing protests in North Dakota and was “alarmed that their people, lands, and traditional ways of life have become threatened to the point of extinction.”

“As we witness militarised law enforcement agencies commit acts of violence against peaceful water protectors in the US, it reminds us of our own mistreatment at the hands of those intending to overpower and silence our voices,” he said.

Wenda, who is currently living in exile in the United Kingdom, added that “the urgent situation at Standing Rock reminds us to advocate for the right of every Indigenous person to protect their culture and religion, tribal systems and natural resources”.

Celebration hashtags
Around the world, supporters joined the celebration of West Papuan Independence Day through the hashtags #GlobalFlagRaising and #LetWestPapuaVote.

Because of a widespread media blackout by Indonesia, the independence movement gains little international coverage, but has increasingly taken to social media to raise awareness.

Wenda and Melbourne producer Airileke Ingram also released the track Sorong Samaraito coincide with the day.

On 1 December 1961, Melanesian West Papuan first raised their Morning Star flag, but were then annexed by Indonesia in 1969 in a controversial referendum after previously winning their independence from Dutch colonialism in 1963 and then being invaded by Indonesian paratroops.

In ongoing oppression, about 500,000 Melanesians are thought to have been killed by Indonesian authorities and face restrictions of movement and assembly, with many protesters being held as political prisoners.

Indigenous groups in Australia and New Zealand have also expressed their support for West Papua and Standing Rock.

A solidarity for West Papua rally at the Sydney Opera House at the weekend. Image: Australia West Papua Association (AWPA)

A number of New Zealanders from the Māori community have started posting versions of their traditional haka war dance to social media as a show of solidarity to the North American protesters.

“When one group of relations is being hurt, abused, being bullied, being ripped off, we all feel that – especially us as Māori – we are very much a leader to the indigenous people,” Te Hamura Nikora told Radio New Zealand.

Nikora, a New Zealand media personality, helped to create the Facebook page “Haka With Standing Rock”.

Huge news today: The Obama Administration just denied the final permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Yes, you read that right. Finally — after months of sustained resistance at Standing Rock and a chorus of protest from around the world — the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not grant permission for the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River, and ordered that the project undergo an environmental review.1

After a month of heartbreak and violence, I almost can’t believe that I get to write you this email. Organizing works. Resistance works. Indigenous leadership is powerful.

If you’re feeling as grateful and heartened as I am in this moment, take a minute to write a note of thanks to the Standing Rock water protectors whose victory this is.

This good news comes after months of Indigenous-led resistance at Standing Rock, where thousands of water protectors endured extraordinary violence at the hands of a militarized police force. Police and private security forces hired by the pipeline company used attack dogs, mace, rubber bullets, and water cannons — yet the water protectors stood their ground.

Their courage inspired and mobilized millions of people across the globe to take action for Indigenous sovereignty, clean water, and climate justice.

If you’re one of those people, click here to thank the water protectors at Standing Rock for the courage, the inspiration, and the hope.

As Indigenous leader Joye Braun said, "This is a day of victory, but we are still fighting a war." We’ve got so much more work to do, and under a Trump administration that work will be far from easy.

But today I feel like we can win. Today I know it.

Thank you, water protectors. Thank you, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Thank you, Indigenous-led organizations and organizers.

Thank you, movement.


Kendall & the team

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