Dakota Access Pipeline

Injured Standing Rock water protector: ‘It’s not about me, it’s about the Indigenous peoples’

Sophia Wilansky may need up to 20 surgeries to save arm after violent police repression
Photo: Green Party members to decide on new Israel-Palestine resolution

MINNEAPOLIS — "Please go out there and say it’s not about me, it’s about the Indigenous peoples and what’s happening to them — even though she is lying there with her arm pretty much blown off.” These words were shared Tuesday by Wayne Wilansky, relaying his daughter’s message at a press conference held outside Hennepin County Medical Center.

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Twenty-one-year-old Sophia Wilansky was inside the hospital undergoing another surgery for injuries sustained from a compression grenade thrown at her on Nov. 20 by police forces at Backwater Bridge, North Dakota, part of the violent repression of the ongoing protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline that has made international headlines.

As Wayne Wilansky spoke to a crowd of both reporters and Standing Rock supporters who had braved snowy weather in downtown Minneapolis, he explained that his daughter “is focused on the fact that it is not about her, it’s about what we are doing to our country and the Native peoples and what we are doing to our environment.”

“There are no words to describe the pain of watching my daughter cry and say she was sorry for the pain she caused me and my wife. I died a thousand deaths today and will continue to do so for quite some time.”

In accordance with his daughter’s wishes, he urged all those who can’t go to Standing Rock to “make a phone call, call people tell then this is un-American what we are doing to the Native people. Once again we are going to brutalize the Native people, [as if] we haven’t done enough over the last 500 years.”

Police repression of water protectors

Sunday night’s assaults by police came against water protectors who had gathered on highway 1806 to remove vehicles to clear the road for the community and the camp’s transportation. The police repression occurred at the bridge only 500 metres from the North entrance of Oceti Sakowin Camp. The camp has been set up to block Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics’ construction of a pipeline to transport fracked crude oil from North Dakota to Chicago, Illinois.

The Morton County Sheriff’s department has reportedly claimed Sophia’s injueries were “likely caused by propane canisters that were carried by the ‘agitators.’”

Wayne Wilansky, however, was unequivocal about what had happened:

There’s no question [as] to what happened. The force of the explosion blew the bone out of her arm and all of the arteries and all of the muscles that support her arm were blown out. It wasn’t caused by a fire or anything else, this is a grenade, this was a weapon of war.

The Guardian reported that “twenty-six people were hospitalized and more than 300 injured” during Sunday evening’s use of force by police on unarmed demonstrators. There were reports of water cannons used in sub-zero temperatures, rubber bullets, tear gas, sound cannons, and both stinger grenades and compression grenades, one of which hit Sophia directly in the arm.

Sophia was medevaced to Minneapolis from North Dakota after an initial two days of emergency medical treatment. Wayne Wilansky told the crowd that doctors have informed the family that Sophia’s recovery will be “a very, very long process and if she maintains the arm, she will have limited use of it. She may need at least 20 different surgeries on her arm.”

Medical updates are being released regularly by Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, including on their Facebook page.

Wilinsky was emotional when answering journalists questions about his daughter’s prognosis:

There are no words to describe the pain of watching my daughter cry and say she was sorry for the pain she caused me and my wife. I died a thousand deaths today and will continue to do so for quite some time. I am left without the right words to describe the anguish of watching her look at her now alien arm and hand.

In Minneapolis a vigil was also held Tuesday night after the press conference at Hennepin County Medical Center for Sophia and her family.

A gofundme has been set up online for Sophia Wilansky here.

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