Wab Kinew stood up in the Manitoba Legislature on Tuesday to send a clear message — he stands with Standing Rock.
"When water is brought into a Dakota sweat lodge we are taught to say, 'Mni wiconi wakan,' or 'Sacred water of life.' Holy water, if you will," the NDP MLA said.
"That mni wiconi is now the rallying cry for the people of Standing Rock as they oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline tells us this a spiritual movement."
Kinew spoke about the "heartbreaking turn" on Sunday when the water protectors were pelted with tear gas and sprayed with water on a night when the temperature dropped as low as –3 C.
The 1,900-kilometre, four-state pipeline is being built to carry oil from western North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois. However, construction of the $3.8-billion US pipeline has been protested for months by the Standing Rock Sioux and the tribe's allies.
The standoff started in Cannonball, N.D., around 6 p.m. after protesters tried to remove a burned-out truck on what's known as Backwater Bridge so that local traffic could move freely again. The bridge is not far from the encampment where they've been for weeks as they demonstrate against the pipeline.
The sheriff's department said in a statement on Monday that law enforcement officers "had rocks thrown at them, burning logs and rocks shot from slingshots."
In the legislature, Kinew talked about how his aunt told him how worried she was for her grandson, who is on the front lines. However, Kinew said instead of telling him to come home, his aunt bought her grandson a gas mask.
"Traditional Indigenous people do not see Standing Rock as activism. For people who have heard the words 'mni wiconi' since birth, this is simply answering the call of duty," Kinew said.
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He added that while everyone may not agree on how to fight climate change, the situation in North Dakota is a "powerful lesson for us in how not to pursue reconciliation."
Standing Rock is an example of development without the consent of Indigenous peoples, Kinew said.
The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council said about 300 people were injured in the altercation on Sunday, 26 of them seriously.