When we first collectively sat down to organize this tour, we all desired to create a network of grassroots animal liberation and earth defense activists. So much of the movement has become funneled into the corporate model of so-called advocacy. These organizations host lavish events, entertain celebrity sponsors, flirt with media exhibitionism, and leverage donations at every turn. Yet where are the measurable gains for animals?
This is not our movement. We entered into this tour trying to create a grassroots alternative that located the animals’ struggle as the nucleus of the movement. It is their movement. We are not the “voice of the voiceless.” They kick and bite and scream and cry and fight for themselves with much more passion, urgency and authenticity than any animal activist can imagine. Our work is solidarity. The role of the grassroots animal liberation movement is to call attention to their stories and their struggle for freedom. We’ve been touring from city to city attempting to drive this message home. As radical activists, we also must understand that animal exploitation does not exist in a vacuum. The suffering of animals can be traced to social institutions and structures that are propped up by the oppression of countless peoples and communities—capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, the prison industry, and structural racism, to name a few. We believe it is therefore the work of animal liberation activists to strengthen our relationships with the communities affected by these systems, and to create a mass movement through coalitions. To do this, we advocate for solidarity. Just as our work for animals is solidarity with their struggle, our work for other struggles must be solidarity as well.
From the beginning of the Fight or Flight Tour, we have been collecting financial and supply donations for Owe Aku, which in Lakota means “Bring Back the Way,” and their efforts to defend the land and sacred water. Through Owe Aku, the Lakota have been preparing indigenous resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline by organizing direct action trainings all over the occupied territories of the Great Plains. These trainings, collectively called Moccasins on the Ground, have made alliances such as Idle No More, Indigenous Environmental Network, Tar Sands Blockade, Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, National Lawyers Guild, and more. The Lakota have made a call of resistance:
“Lakota People, and many other Red Nations people, we have painted our faces. Our allies up north have painted their faces. For sacred water, for Unci Maka [Mother Earth], for our generations. As people of the earth, our coming generations have a right to sacred water, no policy, no corporation, no politics should be more important than that… We are in a time of prophecy, our collective action will be significant, with all the love in our hearts, we must all resist this destruction, and stand for sacred water and Unci Maka.”
The Fight of Flight Tour supports indigenous resistance and frontlines communities who defend the land from the settler state, climate change, and colonial infrastructure. We have been organizing a supply drive to support the work of Owe Aku for several weeks, collecting small and large donations along our tour route with the intent of bringing what we collect to Lakota land. This past Monday, we drove to the Pine Ridge Reservation, site of the Wounded Knee Massacre at the end of the so-called Indian Wars, the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement, and the 1975 shootout between AIM and the FBI that led to the framing and imprisonment of Leonard Peltier. These are the occupied territories that have been home to many stories of resistance. Today the resistance continues.
We were met with warm welcome by Owe Aku upon our arrival and were encouraged to set up camp for the night as guests on their land. After settling in a bit, we shared stories about our tour, discussed the ongoing occupation and genocide in Palestine and its parallels to the occupation and genocide on so-called North America, and were shown how over 50% of the land is leased by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to Eurosettler cattle industry for grazing and subsequent destruction. Perhaps most memorably, we learned from the NaCha (traditional clan leader) about our role as white settlers in the process of decolonization and the importance of solidarity with indigenous resistance. We then sorted through the donations we collected and helped to create an inventory. Before turning in for the night, we enjoyed a beautiful thunderstorm cascading across the sky, bringing much needed rain to the land and the life that depends on it.
Water is sacred to the Lakota and they have taken a stand to defend it. Animal liberation activists must follow suit and take a stand of solidarity against the colonialism that is destroying the land, its people, and the animals that call it home.
We want to thank Owe Aku for inviting us to their land and for being so welcoming. We also want to thank everyone who made a donation during our supply drive. These little acts of solidarity are seeds of a mass movement for collective liberation.