As the late summer sun hovered above Washington Square Park, children splashed in the square’s iconic fountain, seeking refuge from the heat in the fountain’s crisp water. Meanwhile, more than 1,500 miles away in North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its allies were protesting construction of a new pipeline in an effort to protect their land, their independence and their water.
As children played and the people of Standing Rock stood together, a judge was ruling on a temporary injunction to stop construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline. He ruled for a partial halt to construction. Not long after the ruling, hundreds of people filed into the park, once a marsh whose source of water came from a nearby Indian village called Sapokanikan, for a pre-planned rally in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The Native American population of New York City is just under 33,000 or, 0.04 percent of the city’s total population. But supporters in Washington Square Park came from a variety of backgrounds, some saying it’s the largest showing of indigenous solidarity they’ve seen in their lifetimes. Zuben Ornelas, a New Yorker who is Native American says the solidarity he’s seeing between Native-American tribes is nothing short of a miracle. While for Hayley Negrin, a PHD student at NYU who focuses on early Native American history, standing together is obvious, because although she is not an indigenous person, for her “indigenous rights are human rights.”