11/23/2016 01:09 EST | Updated 11/23/2016 01:15 EST

Wab Kinew, Manitoba MLA, Explains What Canada Can Learn From Standing Rock

If Canadians want an example of how to disrespect indigenous peoples — they can look to Standing Rock, Wab Kinew told Manitoba’s legislature on Tuesday.

The bestselling author and NDP MLA rose to make a powerful statement on the months-long protest in North Dakota while holding a box of tobacco.

wab kinew

Wab Kinew speaks in the Manitoba legislature on Tuesday. (Photo: Screenshot/Wab Kinew Facebook video)

“When water is brought into a Dakota sweat lodge we are taught to say ‘'mni wiconi wakan,’ or ‘sacred water of life,’” he said. “That ‘mni wiconi’ is now the rallying cry for the people of Standing Rock as they oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline tells you that theirs is a spiritual movement.”

Protesters first set up camp to oppose the 1,200-mile, $3.8-billion pipeline in April, APTN reported. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe worry construction of the pipeline, which is set to run near reservation lands and under Lake Oahe, will threaten sacred sites and could contaminate drinking water.

The protests took a violent turn on Sunday night, when demonstrators clashed with authorities. Eyewitness videos showed police officers shooting tear gas and water cannons at protesters in below-freezing temperatures.

Kinew said his hunka aunt — not a blood relative — is terrified for her grandson, who has been on the protest’s frontline.

“Yet rather than ask him to come home and get his books for college, she bought him a gas mask,” Kinew said. “‘Why?’ you may ask. Well, 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.”

Standing Rock can show Canada what happens when resource development begins without the consent of First Nations, Kinew said.

"For people who have heard the words ‘mni wiconi’ since birth, this is simply answering the call of duty.”

“I encourage all Manitobans to reflect on your grandparents. Think of the values they held close to their hearts,” he said. “Now think of how strong they would have to believe in those values in order to let their grandchildren go into harm’s way to defend them.

“When you understand that, you will begin to understand the people of Standing Rock, the great Sioux nation, and how they feel about the words ‘mni wiconi, water is life.’”

With files from The Associated Press

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