On the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 15, the University of Redlands’ community joined people from around the nation to observe the No Dakota Access Pipeline National Day of Action. Students for Environmental Action (SEA) and Native American Student Union (NASU) sponsored an event that invited students and Redlands community members to sign petitions, donate money, and march in protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
The Dakota Pipeline Project hopes to build a pipeline that spans 1,172 miles through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, with the goal of transporting crude oil to refining markets across the continental United States. Proponents of the DAPL believe that it will make transportation of oil more safe and cost-effective (http://www.daplpipelinefacts.com). Opponents assert that the production of the pipeline will cause environmental harm and violate Native American treaty agreements.
Dominique Lombardi, senior and member of NASU, explains that preparations to build the pipeline have already devastated indigenous Native American populations living in Standing Rock, North Dakota.
“It has already destroyed burial and ceremonial grounds,” Lombardi said.
The pipeline was originally scheduled to run just north of Bismarck, North Dakota’s capital, but was moved to Standing Rock when Bismark was deemed by federal pipeline regulators a “high consequential area” that would have the most adverse consequences in the event of a pipeline spill (www.bismarcktribune.com).
According to Lombardi, the effect of a pipeline in Standing Rock could be devastating. “The problem with pipelines is that they break. The pipeline will run through Standing Rock, and we don’t want it to spill oil into people’s water source.”
The controversial legality of the DAPL stems from the Treaty of Fort Laramie, which was signed in April, 1868. This treaty was an agreement between the United States and the Sioux Nation that guaranteed Sioux land ownership and hunting rights of the Black Hills, a small mountain range stretching from the Great Plains to Wyoming (www.ourdocuments.gov). Since the treaty was enacted, American mining and pressure to industrialize have threatened Sioux sovereignty over the land.
“Native American lands have been exploited since America’s conception,” said Austin Amaya, a senior student who participated in the protest.
DAPL protesters have cited a clause in Article 1 of the Treaty that establishes the responsibility of the United States government to uphold indigenous sovereignty. The clause states, “if any bad men among the whites…shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will…proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished…and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained” (www.pbs.org).
However, exploitation of sovereign Native land has continued—unpunished and unacknowledged.
By 4:00 p.m, hundreds of students and community members were gathered outside Hunsaker Plaza to show their support of the No DAPL movement.
Edith Queveo, a ninety-two year old community member, moved to Redlands from New York in the late 1980s. She is a member of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and defines herself as “a marcher.” She marched in Washington D.C. to protest the Vietnam War and has participated in demonstrations across the United States throughout her life.
Community members Raleigh Webster and Diane Dunne heard about the No DAPL event through Facebook.
“The environment is important. Keeping carbon in the ground is important. It’s a matter of life and death,” commented Webster, a retired social worker and current substitute teacher. “Other problems involve the rights of indigenous people. They have not received our respect, and they deserve it.”
Dunne, a retired environmental science instructor, said Tuesday’s event was not her first protest. Recently, she has participated in climate change and anti-fracking demonstrations. She also mentioned her active participation in Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
After marchers had a chance to donate and sign petitions, Austin Tannenbaum, co-president of SEA, stood on a chair and began speaking into a megaphone, urging participants to continue fighting to protect not just the environment, but humanity as well, by putting an end to the DAPL.
Participants applauded as Tannenbaum taught them a chant he wrote, which included the lines:
Fossil Fuels declaring war
Earth’s what we’re fighting for
No new pipelines, say it loud
Keep that poison in the ground!
After reciting through the chant once, Tannenbaum took his place at the front of the crowd and lead marchers towards Armacost Library and across the Quad. Numerous onlookers joined the march as the crowd passed them.
Marchers repeated after Tannenbaum as he cheered, “Water is Sacred! Oil is Death! People Not Pipelines!” The crowd circled campus and finished in Hunsaker Plaza where they started.
“A big misconception it that this is just a native’s situation. But this is about everyone,” explained Isabella Griffin, the president of NASU.
If the DAPL were to break, it would contaminate water sources in not just Standing Rock, but also other communities that stretch along the pipeline’s route. Additionally, climate change, which is caused by the burning of fossil fuels like oil carried by the DAPL, threatens people everywhere.
Tannenbaum explained the need for continued action that promotes change in concrete ways.
“An effective method of pursuing change is from the local level out, and activities like this march build community for that purpose,” Tannenbaum said.
The No Dakota Access Pipeline National Day of Action at the University of Redlands raised hundreds of dollars in donations and resources including food, clothing, blankets, and other supplies to send to Standing Rock. Additionally, 342 signatures were collected on a petition inciting President Obama to declare Standing Rock a national monument, which would put an end to the construction of the DAPL. To learn more about the DAPL and its environmental and ethical implications, connect with the Students for Environmental Action and Native American Student Union clubs.
photos contributed or collected by Allie Kuroff and Austin Tannenbaum