Kate Nash Shares an Open Letter to Obama About the Dakota Pipeline Signed by 290 Plus Musicians
Billie Joe Armstrong, Sia, Alicia Keys, Karen O, Maroon 5, and many more have signed to voice their concern about the increasingly dire situation in North Dakota.
via Getty Images
On Saturday, November 26 2016, a group of peaceful anti-DAPL protestors chanting "Water Is Life!" stood outside the CNN offices on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, while an unusually heavy downpour drenched them from the sky. They were gathered to protest the lack of media coverage for the increasingly fraught clashes at Standing Rock in North Dakota where protestors are taking a stance against the ongoing construction of the $3.7 billion, 1200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe have opposed the construction since first learning of the plans in 2014.
As a quick background to the story, this issue revolves around a pipeline being built by Energy Transfer Partners which is due to transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois daily. It intends to travel underneath the Missouri River which is the main water source for the Sioux tribe. Beyond the risks of their water supply becoming contaminated, the tribe also argues that the pipe interferes with sacred grounds which belong to them as Native Americans according to agreements known as the Fort Laramie treaties. The Sioux claim that the federal government didn't do enough to involve them while seeking a permit for the pipeline, a matter which would defy federal law.
Over the past few months, thousands of protestors have descended upon the site, setting up camp on land owned by Energy Transfer Partners. Increasing reports of clashes with policemen circulate on social media, as the issue gains more international momentum and the winter weather conditions worsen. The latest reports are that protestors are being urged to leave the site and take down their camps by December 5 for "safety" reasons, with the establishment of a "free speech zone" is promised elsewhere. Anyone who remains onsite after December 5 will be deemed an illegal trespasser. So far journalists covering the protests have been arrested, protestors have been shot with rubber bullets and 300 people have been treated for injuries, while there are allegations that concussion grenades and water canons have been used to control crowds. Outside the CNN office, I pass a man who poses for his picture by a sign that reads: "Respect + Listen to Native People."
British artist Kate Nash, who uprooted her life from London to LA two years ago, has been particularly vocal in the days and weeks following Donald Trump's Election, and is now turning her efforts towards this heated issue. Kate has always had a political streak, appearing on BBC News to defend Russian punk band Pussy Riot when they were deemed guilty for protesting the Russian Orthodox Church's support of President Putin in 2012. She founded a female collective called Girl Gang, intended as a positive, feminist movement to rally and support women in the arts. She took to the streets of Downtown LA immediately after Trump's Election alongside thousands of others, posting Instagrams to document the scenes. This past weekend she was at a call bank to support the #NoDAPL movement, and came away from it wanting to do more.
"I want to write a letter for musicians to sign, expressing how disturbed they are by the police actions taking place at Standing Rock," she said via text message. "We as the music community should not support the police there. We should take a stand." Kate was concerned about the lack of media coverage, revealing that many of her fans back in the UK didn't even know anything was going on. Over the weekend she drafted a letter, addressed it to President Obama, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Justice, and is now asking artists and members of the music industry to sign it in a bid to hold America to account in these increasingly nefarious post-Trump political times.
"It's important that America feels like the world is watching them," she says. "What's happening in North Dakota feels very important as the last major issue under Barack Obama. Even if we don't make a difference, I want America to feel watched. Right now it feels like they do whatever the fuck they want."
Kate's letter appears below with signatures so far from Billie Joe Armstrong, Tegan & Sara, Karen O, Hayley Williams of Paramore, Shirley Manson, Moby, Maroon 5, Mark Ronson, Vic Mensa, Pussy Riot, Cat Power, Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, and many, many more. Kate would also like to direct you to two additional sites if you're a member of the public looking to support the cause.
Sacred Stone Camp allows you to donate directly to the camp at Standing Rock and contribute to the legal fund. You can also order supplies from Amazon via the site to send to those camping.
GoFundMe/Shelters4protectors is the crowdfunding site of online activist Djali Eagle Cepada who is a young female activist and blogger from New York helping the Redhawk Native American Arts Council. She is Dominican on her mother's side and Black and Native on her father's and is raising funds to buy ten winter shelters complete with heating units and stoves to accommodate 10-12 people per shelter for Christmas this year.
- Reporting by Eve Barlow.
Dear President Obama, Army Corps of Engineers, and Department of Justice,
We are writing to express our shock at the treatment of the people of Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota. We are deeply disturbed by the police actions that have been taking place, where non violent protests have been and continue to be met with extremely aggressive tactics including; being shot with water canons in below freezing temperatures, chemical weapons, rubber bullets, and attack dogs. These are the same inhumane methods used during WWII and the Civil Rights Movement.
We feel strongly in the current political climate that those in power must be held accountable for their actions. We stand behind and urge you to take action regarding the following requests made in the coalition statement released on November 27th, 2016:
"WE CALL ON THE WHITE HOUSE TO DENY THE EASEMENT NOW, REVOKE THE PERMITS, REMOVE THE DAPL CONSTRUCTION WORKERS, AND ORDER A FULL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT IN FORMAL CONSULTATION WITH IMPACTED TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS. PUT AN END TO THE VIOLENCE."
We encourage you to remember that this planet provides for us, not the other way around. Water is life and this cannot be underestimated or taken for granted in 2016.
We are aware of the long and painful history between the US and its indigenous people. Know that the world's eyes and the eyes of the music community are on you now as you continue to disregard the treaties you have with the Native American people and act barbarically towards them.
Standing Rock we stand with you.
Kate Nash • Hayley Williams, Paramore • Sia • Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day • Walk The Moon • Sleigh Bells • Ingrid Michaelson • Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr., The Strokes • Ronnie Vannucci Jr., The Killers • Maroon 5 • Motion City Soundtrack • Moby • Tegan & Sara • Danger Mouse • Sky Ferreira • Tove Lo • Lykke Li • KT Tunstall • Kimya Dawson • Karen O • HOLYCHILD • Liz Phair • JoJo • JD Samson • Kathleen Hanna • Johanna Fateman • Jack Antonoff, Bleachers • Rizzle Kicks • Ed O'Brien, Radiohead • Nick Mason, Pink Floyd • Duff Mckagan, Guns & Roses • Billy Bragg • Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast • Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie • Grouplove •Black Kids • Cold War Kids • Clem Creevy, Cherry Glazerr • Curt Smith, Tears for Fears • Tony Kanal and Tom Dumont, No Doubt • Chris Cornell, Soundgarden • Emmy The Great • First Aid Kit • FIDLAR • PARTYBABY • Bleached • Jenny Lee Lindberg, Warpaint • SWMRS • Julia Cumming, Sunflower Bean • Deap Vally • Jungle • Kiran Ghandi • MSMR • Marina & The Diamonds • Natasha Bedingfield • Pussy Riot • Parson James • Santigold • Rumer Shirakbari • Samantha Urbani • Rachel Trachtenburg • Mitch Grassi, Pentatonix • Louise Post, Veruca Salt • Skating Polly • Lori Barbero & Kat Bjellend, Babes in Toyland • Kojak • Gin Wigmore • Dispatch • Bonnie Mckee • Seth Bogart, Hunx • RAT BOY • Christina Perri • Asia Whittacre • Jackie Tohn • Lapsley • Chloe Latimer Kloe • Chris Desjardins, Flesh Eaters • Alex Didonato, Finish Ticket • Chris Porterfield, Field Report • Jenn Wasner, Flock of Dimes • Matt & Kim • Sandie Shaw • Tyson Meade, Chainsaw Kittens • Zak Starkey • Kliph Scurlock • Justin Tranter • Daya • Julia Michaels • Samantha Crain • Alicia Warrington • Ashton Irwin, 5 Seconds of Summer • X • Jesse Malin, D Generation • Mario Cuomo, The Orwells • Spankrock • Andro • Lucius • Alice Glass • Anna Bulbrook • Jessica Gelt • Tom Biller • Justin Young, The Vaccines • Julia Nunes • Rain Phoenix • Fitz & The Tantrums • Sara Bareilles • Young Volcanoes • Kellin Quinn, Sleeping With Sirens • Cadien James, Twin Peaks • Adam Slack, The Struts • Andrew McMahon • OKGO • Andy Stack, Wye Oak • Deerhoof • Amanda Blank • A Great Big World • Laura Jane Grace & James Bowman, Against Me! • Lights • Lyndsey Gunnulfsen & Alex Babinski & Brian MacDonald, PVRIS • Vic Mensa • Fat Mike • Night Birds • Propagandhi • Lagwagon • Mark Ronson • Gorgon City • Erik Hassle • Steve Aoki • Atlas Genius • Troye Sivan • Hana Pestle, HANA • Shirley Manson • Icona Pop • Brian May • Cat Power • Electric Pyramid • Ed Droste, Grizzly Bear • Merchandise • Shura • MUNA • John McClure, Reverend & the Makers • Ed Harcourt • Branden Daniel • Brian Canning • Sami Banuelos, Twilight Sleep • Annie Lennox • Gothic Tropic • Shamir • Delicate Steve • Black Table • Godhunter • In the Company of Serpents • Azar Swan • Greg Rogove, Rogov / Devendra Banhart • Thumpers • Black Wail • Your Enemy • Marsh Dweller • Pixie Geldof •The Superweaks • Horseback • Jenks Miller • Agalloch • Korada • Churchburn • Mala Suerte • Krieg • Nostalgist • Thetan • Axed Crown • Temple of Dagon • Destroyed in Seconds • Hatesville • Tennis • Zachary Cole Smith, DIIV • Jake Shears, Scissor Sisters • Brooke Candy • Barren Altar • Unmothered • Occultist • Unmaker • Blasphemous • BRONCHO • Taraka and Nimai Larson of Prince Rama • The Good Life • HULL • Battlemaster • Hoboknife • Spoorloos • U.S. Bastards • GWAR • Asphalt Graves • Demassek • Natur • Voarm • Argentinum Astrum • A Story of Rats • Alekhine's Gun • Usnea • Anicon • Trenchgrinder • Blood Ceremony • Misand • Michelle Branch • Josh Groban • Greta Morgan, Springtime Carnivore • Dominic Angelella, Lithuania • mewithoutYou • Beth Wawerna, Bird Of Youth • Banoffee • Sinister Haze • Cough • THIEF •BlackQueen • Rabies Shot • Kyng • Foie Gras • Hivelords • Sadgiqacea • Belus • Venus + The Moon • Pyrolatrous • Foehammer • LIZ Y2K • Slaves • Alicia Keys • Billy Ray Cyrus • Nick Hissom • David Johansen, New York Dolls • Matt Healy, The 1975 • Samantha Ronson • Brendon Urie, Panic at the Disco • Morgan Kibby, White Sea • Aaron Pfenning • Charli xCx • Kristen Kontrol • John Rzenik, Goo Goo Dolls • Biffy Clyro • Charlotte Church • Adam Green • Jack Dishel, Only Son • The Mowglis • Woodkid • Aesop Rock • Atmosphere • Grace Mitchell • Dan Romer • Bambu Depistola • Open Mike Eagle • George Watsky • Mereki • Rozzi Crane • Will Chase • Grieves • Eligh Nachowitz, The Grouch & Eligh • Sage Francis • M.Ward • Catherine Pierce • Beth Behrs • Cate Le Bon • Luke Pritchard, The Kooks • NZCA / LINES • Everything Everything • Christine and the Queens • Portugal the Man • Gary Kemp, Spandau Ballet • Pusha T • Aimee Nash, The Black Ryder • Ian Astbury, The Cult • Dave Sitek • Rita Ora • Rae Morris • Rachel Platten • Disemballerina • A Stick And A Stone • Negative Queen • Floods • Caina • Wildspeaker • Witch Mountain • Mortals • Tithe • Imperial Triumphant • Ashtoreth • Forest of Tygers • The Brass • He Whose Ox Is Gored • Mike Doughty • Franz Ferdinand • Alejandra Deheza, School of Seven Bells • Clint Mansell • Blake Mills • Wolf Alice • Binki Shapiro
We talked to Kate further about her thoughts on the pipeline, the role of musicians in politics, and why she was inspired to get involved further below.
Noisey: What compels you to be vocal about your political agenda as a musician?
Kate Nash: Music has to be political. This is a time for taking a stance and not just showing off about being rich. Look at what's happening to the world and what's already happened, the stuff we've ignored for years. Why does abuse of power and the breaking of treaties continue to happen and why do we have no say? Do we just continue to be lied to and trampled over by the government? Take the Leonardo DiCaprio documentary Before The Flood. When I saw that I thought, in 40 years it's going to be so difficult to survive. And these issues are connected. The North Dakota Pipeline is part of it because the Indigenous People are connected to the land and respect the planet. It's important for us to learn from them.
Why is it important as a UK musician to rally behind this. Isn't this an American issue?
The importance is two-fold. America affects the entire globe culturally, financially and politically. Secondly, the story has been suppressed. Even in America the media aren't reporting on it enough. Coverage of American issues around the globe is important at this time. Donald Trump is to become President, people connected to Trump are Heiling in meetings, there's a normalization of white supremacists. It's a very important time for us to be holding America to account for its power and the promises it makes. We should have an opinion and a voice wherever we are. People's rights have already been threatened. It sounds dramatic but these are the facts. I'm optimistic, however, we do have to think about the worst eventualities and do our best—all of us—to prevent what's happened in history from happening again. Stand up for little people who are being crushed by big bullies.
Let's talk about the letter. Is it specifically protesting the policing of the protests, or the Dakota Pipeline in general?
I stand against the violence towards people. People have said they're not going to move by December 5th and my main concern is that lives are going to be taken. People are very injured, they're subjected to freezing conditions, and any barbaric treatment has to stop. We all have the right to peacefully protest and these people have the right to protect land that was promised to them. I'm also urging a repeal. The company constructing the pipeline [Energy Transfer Partners] and the federal government haven't honored the [Fort Lamarie] Treaty. The land isn't owned by the US government [it is private property] so it's illegal.
When did you first become aware of what was happening at Standing Rock?
I saw it on Instagram at first. I've been seeing more and more social activism there. I had a lack of knowledge about the Native American people. It's not a history I'd ever studied as a British person so I had no understanding of it. I'd like to shed light on it for the UK. It's important in breaking down the perspective we have of America, particularly with this new leader coming into power. Learning from history is key.
What's your call-to-arms to other artists? Why should they sign this letter?
I remember growing up with music and activism always being integrated together. Whether it was John Lennon, Nirvana, Kathleen Hanna, Patti Smith, or Freddie Mercury, my favorite musicians have always stood up for things. As an artist you have a platform and you are a leader. In 2016 it's more important than ever to use your voice. I want to help us be part of a brighter, more positive future and I would urge other musicians to look to their heroes and hear their voices. They took a stance. It was exciting and heartwarming to see that a lot of people care on the ground after Trump's election. We need to continue the momentum.
Follow Kate Nash on Twitter.
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