Statement Urging JACL to Support #noDAPL and Native Sovereignty at the 2017 National Convention

I begin by acknowledging that we stand and proceed today on Piscataway land.

On behalf of the Detroit Chapter, I affirm our support of Resolution 3. In Michigan, resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline has joined hands with resisting the precarious management of Line 5, a pipeline that transects the Mackinac Strait. Current management of Line 5 infringes on the sovereignty of the Anishinaabeg, and stands to affect the environmental stability of the Great Lakes region, which is the largest supply of freshwater in the Untied States. Therefore, the Detroit Chapter recognizes resistance against DAPL as deeply local to Michigan, no matter our distance from Dakota territory itself.

Though perhaps the connections are not immediately evident, DAPL is local to the JACL as well. When our community was incarcerated during World War II, these families lost control of the lands they were farming—and for many, these lands were never recovered. The effects of this loss are indelible. In this vein, DAPL is an agent of the erosion of Native right to land and what happens on that land.

Furthermore, the Gila River and Poston incarceration camps in Arizona were built on Native reservation land—against tribal wishes. To be complicit in the erosion of Native sovereignty today is to affirm that historical erosions like that one were an acceptable precedent as well.

The Detroit Chapter recognizes that adopting an official stance against DAPL might complicate the organization’s relationship with some banking institutions. Recognizing this, however, we must also recognize that this resolution poses an important question for the JACL as a civil rights organization: Is it our mission to fight for civil liberties, or will we fight only when it is convenient to do so?

When Executive Order 9066 was issued during World War II, the Japanese American community did not experience a major outpouring of support across racial lines.

Remember instances like the I AM CHINESE buttons that prioritized the insulation of outside communities from the violences being visited on the Japanese American one.

And remember that in the wake of 9/11, the JACL opted to take an alternate path, and stand with the Arab and Muslim American communities, even in a climate of increased xenophobia and racial violence.

Resolution 3 is an opportunity for the JACL to continue this ethic of solidarity; to deepen its commitments to learning about the interconnections that make “our story” more than just a Japanese American story; and to affirm that under no circumstances—be it “military necessity” or pecuniary caution—should the rights and sovereignties of any American people be compromised.

Thank you.

This statement was offered in support of Resolution 3 (sponsored by the Seattle Chapter of the JACL) on the floor of the Japanese American Citizens League National Convention, held July 6-9, 2017. The resolution concerned the JACL’s support of Native sovereignty, and their shared resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. An early copy of the resolution can be found at this link. Resolution 3 was passed by a majority of voting delegates with several revisions–namely, greater clarification as to what actions JACL should take–and might be beholden to take–in order to demonstrate their support of the Standing Rock Sioux and Native sovereignty broadly writ.

I consider this a big step–but, critically, only a first step–toward genuine coalition-building between the JACL and the United States’ indigenous communities. I hope that the JACL continues in this vein, and takes concrete actions that reflect the spirit of this resolution.


[Header photo was taken at a #noDAPL solidarity march on November 15, 2016 in Detroit, MI.]
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