Standing with Standing Rock

On November 15, people rallied at over 300 locations across the United States against the Dakota Access Pipeline. In D.C., the protest started outside the Army Corp of Engineers.

For anyone who hasn’t been following the story closely, the Dakota Access Pipeline has generated controversy because of plans to run it through Standing Rock, a Sioux reservation in South Dakota. Sioux leaders have argued that the pipe would run too close to their water supply to be safe, especially since pipes are prone to leakage. Building this pipeline would also require digging through their scared burial grounds.

Various organizers spoke to the crowd about the pipeline, with many offering personal stories about how they fear the pipeline would impact them. Older natives talked about being forced to give up parts of land where their parents and grandparents were buried.

Also at the rally was actress Shailene Woodley, who was arrested at a peaceful protest at Standing Rock in October.

(Photo by: Susan Melkisethian/Flickr)

(Photo by: Susan Melkisethian/Flickr)

“It’s great that it took a white, non-native woman to finally bring some attention to this,” Woodley said, criticizing the media for being slow to cover the pipeline story. She urged everyone to continue fighting it.

Very low-quality photo I managed to take of Woodley

Very low-quality photo I managed to take of Woodley

Protesters then marched to the White House, as part of a call for President Obama to shut down the pipeline. The first speaker there was Eryn Wise of the International Indigenous Youth Council.

“Our youth council does not understand why the president they voted for, some of them voting for the first time ever… seems to not care about why they’re here,” she said. “So I’m standing here today asking President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline… and stop pandering to the fossil fuel industry because the indigenous people are saying we do not want pipelines, we do not want people to poison our water and we do not want people to poison our children.”

(Photo by: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

(Photo by: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

After a few short speeches by other indigenous organizers, Wise announced that Senator Bernie Sanders had arrived to speak. The crowd responded with cheers and applause, with many yelling phrases like “Viva Bernie!” and “We love you Bernie!”

In her introduction, Wise thanked Sanders, along with is his wife, Jane, for being one of the only politicians to speak out about the importance of native rights.

“Jane and I are proud and honored to be with you this evening,” Sanders said, “and we are proud to be with people in 300 communities all over this country who are demanding that the pipeline not be built.”

Sanders said that the pipeline should not be forced on the indigenous people if they do not want it running through their land.

“For hundreds of years, the Native American people have been lied to, have been cheated and their sovereign rights have been denied them,” he said. “Today, we are saying it is time for a new approach to the Native American people.”

(Photo by: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

(Photo by: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

Sanders told the crowd that at a time when the world is facing a water crisis, the country cannot afford to jeopardize the water on which millions rely. He also criticized the pipeline as being part of man-made climate change.

“I don’t have to tell anybody here that we have a new president coming in who wants this country to become more dependent on fossil fuel,” he said. “We have got to tell Mr. [Donald] Trump and everybody else: We are not going silently into the night. The stakes are too high for the future of this planet. We’re going… to tell the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of our planet.”

It was incredibly powerful to hear.

(Photo by: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

(Photo by: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

Our history is one that is unjust to native peoples, and we act as if that it’s a thing of the past, as if oppression or disenfranchisement of natives stopped after the Trail of Tears.

This pipeline is being forced upon the natives who do not want it. At first, it was designed to follow a different route, but the primarily white town it was going to run through said they didn’t want it. But when a sovereign, indigenous nation peacefully says they do not want it, it’s forced upon them.

To top off an amazing rally, I crossed paths with Sanders and his staffers as they left, to which I yelled “thank you Bernie!” He paused, looked back, smiled, waved and said “and thank you.”

I’m still in disbelief that it happened. I talked to an incredibly important, well-known American leader. but as much as I’d like it to be, that’s not what needs to be talked about. This is about the people of Standing Rock.

Originally published at gw.therival.news by Emily Milakovic on 12.6.16.
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