Posted in Culture

What do Colin Kaepernick and the North Dakota Access Pipeline have in common?

ndap sittingMy Facebook feed is full of the “discussions” regarding Colin Kaepernick and his quiet statement made by sitting for the National Anthem.

There’s even more posts in support of the tribes fighting the big oil companies who are trying to build a 4-state pipeline.

The protest related to Kaepernick turns to whether he is being disrespectful; whether he – and those who sit or take a knee in solidarity with him – should be punished.

The pipeline protest discusses the measures taken to “beat back” the protest with dogs, mace, and judicial action. It begs for a cease action from the legal system (that may or may not have any real jurisdiction). It asks for an opinion of politicians. It asks for concern and respect for and of the People.

There is a common theme within, among, and across these two prominent issues. The problem is….

It’s NOT what is in the forefront of most of the arguments.

The theme in both situations is about oppression.

Kaepernick exercises his first amendment rights for free speech and peaceful protest by sitting to call out the oppression African American people have and still experience. He is highlighting the most recent events and tying them to the historical trauma.

He is expressly positioned for such a protest.

He is well paid and in the public eye. This marks his privilege which he is utilizing responsibly to give voice to those whose voices cannot be heard.

He is a black man who understands oppression (he never stopped being a black man) and he is asking this nation to consider whether all people are really free; whether the anthem lyrics are merely nostalgia or reality.

Yet the focus is on the process and whether Kaepernick has the right to protest in the way he has chosen. The primary reaction is to the protest, not to the message.

The primary reaction is from the oppressor.

“How dare he!”

“Punish him and the sympathizers!”

I seem to recall in history when the Germans were also forced to “be respectful” and salute and were punished when they would not.


The Native American protest of the North Dakota Access Pipeline was initiated by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a sovereign nation. They have since been joined by indigenous tribes from around the nation, around the World.

The US government and private citizens decided to traipse across that sovereign nation, on the soil and sacred grounds of another nation; without regard to what and whom they are desecrating. All with the intent to build a pipeline to move crude oil under and through 219 lakes and waterways; pipelines with a history of rupturing and devastating ecosystems and waterways.

In the process, treaties and respect have been broken.


The Native People could have declared war; their sovereign nation had been invaded!

Instead they began a peaceful protest.

The protest has been identified as THE largest Native American protest in history as daily more and more people – Natives and non-Natives alike – join the ranks.

It is true that it is about water, EVERYONE’S water.

It is also the perfect example of the oppression Native Americans have withstood for centuries. It is validation of how things are said while other things are done; right hand – left hand – under hand.

And the focus is on the process; on the judicial process, on their “right” to stop the pipeline.

Voices have been heard echoing, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

“They’re over-reacting.”

“They just want money.”

It is, again, the oppressor who seeks to vilify the oppressed; seeks to make clear the supremacy of money and privilege.

In both these situations peaceful protest began to provide the public eye with an inside perspective of an issue that should bring great pain to a united nation, to a nation that claims to value diversity.

Oh, wait…

Are we, the United States of America, a united nation?

Do we value diversity?

THESE are the questions such protests should raise…

Not whether sitting for the anthem is patriotic or disrespectful

Not whether those with the most money are allowed to make and break the rules

Do we value all people?

Do Black Lives Matter?

Do Native Lands and Lives Matter?

Do Treaties Matter?

Do People Matter?

The issue being called out is OPPRESSION. It is loud and clear across the activities, atrocities, and activism throughout our nation right now.

The problem is this ISSUE is being ignored. Again.

OPPRESSION is being used to silence the OPPRESSED.


It’s smoke and mirrors, bait and switch, now you see you it now you don’t.

Take notice, People.

Your future depends on it. Regardless of the color of your skin, what’s going on impacts you.

Do you see the issue?

Do you see the oppression – historic and current?

What’s your stand?

Where’s your cultural competence now?

I look forward to hearing all about it!

With Respect,

With Respect, LLC


Leah Kyaio co-owns With Respect, LLC and works as the Executive Director, Program Developer, and Professional Development Trainer; providing strengths-based solutions that provide tools and skills to organizations and businesses to reduce and eliminate racism and sexism.

2 thoughts on “What do Colin Kaepernick and the North Dakota Access Pipeline have in common?

  1. Oppression is a weapon of privilege, and until we become aware of our own privileges and how we act/think in order to maintain having privilege, we will continue to have social problems in the country which (I am afraid) will lead to a race and class war sooner or later. Sorry. I’m not optimistic…just look at the presidential race.
    I will, however, try to think positively and help create peaceful solutions…breathe, Mary, breathe! 😉

  2. An interesting correlation. I’m one of those people who felt sitting during the anthem was disrespectful, but as an American I recognize his right to protest in the manner he feels is best. I really like the way the Seahawks have tackled the issue, using their platform to try and create unity. I think it would have been awesome for a Dolphin or two to have linked their arms but at the same time I think it demonstrated the difference in their protests even. I’m just energized by the efforts to keep this issue front and center. Its uncomfortable but we all need to talk about it openly!

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