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May 15, 2019
Today we’re joined by Outreach Organizer Leoyla Cowboy and Executive Director Carl Williams of the Water Protector Legal Collective. The Water Protector Legal Collective was formed in 2016 in response to the need to provide legal support for activists protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
Leoyla recounts her own personal experiences at Standing Rock, including meeting her husband Michael "Little Feather" Giron. Little Feather is currently in Federal prison, having been charged alongside six other indigenous water protectors, for resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline. We hear about the work that WPLC has done and continues to do for these activists as well as hundreds of others who faced state charges, as well as indigenous activists engaged in other fights for sovereignty. Carl discusses the limits of the US legal system for providing justice to indigenous people especially, and the difficulties movement lawyers face in a system that is set up against those they serve.
Leoyla and Carl also talk about a May 9 hearing of the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights addressing the “Suppression of Indigenous Resistance to Extractive Industries in North America”, a hearing called for by WPLC. Leoyla talks about her experience testifying at the hearing, and Carl describes how the hearing, while unlikely to lead to any dramatic changes, is helping to build connections between indigenous groups and allies across the Americas and bring attention to their common struggles.