Joe Williams has spent time in North Dakota, where thousands of people from across the United States and Canada have set up camp in recent weeks to block the construction of a pipeline that would run through Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
William’s show of solidarity has been widely shared on social media. He has published a video statement and an image gallery on his Facebook page, which have received thousands of shares and likes.
Williams says his trip is a means to spread “support and love to all my brothers and sisters, Native Peoples from across the world.”
On a Facebook video, he highlights that Indigenous Australians relate to what is happening at Standing Rock.
“Native People[s] from across the world are so similar in what we believe and what we think, and our Earth is our Mother.”
Williams likened the drilling and the construction needed to build the pipeline to assault.
“I don’t like to using it as a term, but it’s what we call ‘raping our mother’… and it’s so hurtful of our people,” he says.
He also called on other Australians to take action.
“For us as First Nations Australians, Native Australians … for the last 220 odd years we’ve been protesting. Out here in America, for the last 500 odd years Native Americans have been protesting.
“If we have non-Indigenous people, white people coming out here and showing support and showing that they care about what we believe in as well, it’s going to show some weight,” he says.
“My job here is to show support from back home. To show love and support.”
Williams finished the video by comparing the global First Nations community to family.
“Our people are like one big family. When our family calls, our mother, a brother or a sister calls, we gotta come and we answer. So I’m here to show my support”.
The Standing Rock protest against the four-state Dakota Access Pipeline Project has drawn worldwide media attention, and has featured highly in social media.
Environmentalists say they are taking a stand for future generations. Protesters from multiple tribes say the pipeline would disrupt a sacred burial ground, as well as threaten water quality in the area. They argue that the Army Corps of Engineers should never have granted permits for its construction.
Confrontations have erupted between protesters and construction workers, and construction of the pipeline has been halted by a Federal judge.
The tribe's outstanding lawsuit attempts to end construction of the pipeline, which is due to be finished this year. The suit says the project violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, will harm water supplies on the reservation and downstream, and disturb ancient sacred sites.