North Country community members came together in downtown Plattsburgh at Trinity Park last weekend to show solidarity with the #NoDAPL movement. The gatherers were from all over the North Country and formed a peaceful assembly in spirit of peace and prayer in support with the indigenous people and those protecting the water.
Plattsburgh City resident and event organizer Allsun Ozyesil has a strong connection to this movement and felt it would be appropriate to bring the movement up north.
“I choose to put the emphasis on the movement, and not my personal experience,” Ozyesil said, who spent a portion of the past two months volunteering at the core of the movement. “I gained a lot from my experience and helped a lot of people, and it did help me organize the event that happened Saturday.”
Over 100 people showed up to the event, which compromised Ozyesil’s intentions in gaining visibility on the movement. After feeling a sense of hopelessness, it pushed Ozyesil to organize this gathering, which turned out to be a success.
“After our current administration signed the memorandums to expedite the process for DAPL and the Keystone XL, I was feeling that hopelessness again,” Ozyesil said, “There is a video of Mark Ruffalo going around, and he says, ‘the time you are feeling hopeless, is when you need to be doing more,’ which led me to Standing Rock and what called me to organize this event as well.
This movement has spread all over the country and even other parts of the world, bringing people together to protect the earth and fight for human rights. In response to the president signing off on these pipeline orders, protestors and native indigenous people continue their fight to save the natural land.
Bringing the movement to Plattsburgh is something that Ozyesil has been wanting to do ever since initially getting involved.
“I saw a bunch of big cities taking action, so it led me to create this event and bring it to Plattsburgh,” Ozyesil said. “I wanted to bring indigenous people into the spotlight and to get the message out that this is an indigenous led movement that applies to all human beings.”
During her time following the #NoDAPL movement, Ozyesil has been able to meet and work with people from all over the country. In relation to Plattsburgh, she specifically reached out to the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation in Akwesasne, New York to help lead the peaceful gathering in downtown Plattsburgh.
“I wanted to bring this organic happening to Plattsburgh,” Ozyesil said. “To have the indigenous voices be the center of this, and to be a space for prayer and solidarity.”
Despite having limited connections, Ozyesil was able to work with Steven Thompson-Oakes, who has also stood at Standing Rock, is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation, and has dedicated his life to the movement ever since the beginning.
“Allsun contacted me about the event she was hosting, and invited me and the entire reservation to come join,” Thompson-Oakes said. “I’ve been committed to the movement for the past six months now, which led me to start my own rallies with the reservation.”
Thompson-Oakes references Sacred Water: Standing Rock — RISE, a documentary made by VICELAND, which describes how the movement started and why it is so important.
“If you watch that movie, it is basically Standing Rock in two hours,” Thompson-Oakes said. “It’s a very powerful movie. It has a lot of good speakers, and it shows how the youth is responsible for starting the movement.”
With the amount of people that have traveled to Standing Rock from all over the country, and even the world, it goes to show how important this movement is.
“This was founded on a peaceful and prayerful movement,” Thompson-Oakes said. “But the main thing is, it’s for the water. This is for having clean water for the next seven generations to come.”
Thompson-Oakes also mentioned how resilient the indigenous people are, not only during this movement, but throughout history as well.
“Another big thing is oppression and decolonization of the Native Americans,” he said. “A long time ago, we were forced to be put on reservations in hopes that we would decolonize ourselves. But we have not. We are resilient. We are learning our language more, and recently we’ve seen a heal in transition in all Native Americans. This has never happened before, 500 different nations and tribes have come together for this movement and met up in Standing Rock, all fighting for the same thing. It’s a very powerful movement.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but the continuous amounts of support pouring in from all over the world.
“All I have to say, is to keep the water protectors in your prayers,” Thompson-Oakes said. “Everyone participating at Standing Rock, the people on the frontline, and of course, the water.”
Email Ezra Kachaturian at firstname.lastname@example.org