Colorado Indigenous and community environmental groups hosted internationally renowned Native artists Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belcourt for a weekend of art making, music and Native story telling. The artists are part of the Onaman Collective and have become synonymous with the visual images of the First Nations struggle at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
On Saturday November 18th they hosted a day long art workshop with community anti-fracking activists from East Boulder County. On Sunday November 19th the art that was created in the workshop was used as part of a water walk in Lafayette.
“Our hope is to inspire people to rise up and make the changes necessary in their lives, but also to inspire others to make the change, and also to find the strength in people and to look past the differences and to unite for a better world.” — Isaac Murdoch
Matene Strikes First, a Water Protector from Standing Rock says art can be an effective tool in resistance. “I believe art really just helps people visualize…what is really happening here, what are the dangers of big oil and gas and fracking, but more importantly how do we carry ourselves and how do we conduct ourselves in stopping something like that?”
Angela Bibens, a Denver based attorney with Red Owl Law, is providing legal advice to the East Boulder County Protectors having worked with the Water Protectors at Standing Rocky as part of the Water Protector Legal Collective. Bibens says that the weekend was about bringing the message of art and community “we have indigenous and non-indigenous participants in the art build this weekend and it’s been a way to bring community together and raise the profile of what is going on here in Colorado where the extraction in Erie and the proposed extraction through fracking wells in Lafayette is making these communities, front line communities. This fight has been going on for over 5 years and has really reached a pinnacle where the government and the citizens are basically at a standstill. Every aspect of what they’ve been trying to do to resist through the proper channels, the state, permitting process, County Commissioners, mayoral and city council process has broken down.”
Isaac Murdoch, one of the artists leading the weekend workshops, says that the goal of the workshops is to convey the message of resistance to the current status quo with the oil and gas industry having so much power. “We have to have another way in terms of how we’re looking after the environment and so this is really a message to government and to industry that fracking is no longer acceptable. ”
Murdoch says that art can unite people in way that other forms of activism can’t. “Our hope is to inspire people to rise up and make the changes necessary in their lives, but also to inspire others to make the change, and also to find the strength in people and to look past the differences and to unite for a better world.”