The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a proposed 1,172-mile, multi-billion dollar oil pipeline that would start in North Dakota and end in Illinois, transferring 470,000 barrels of oil each day. However, one major issue with this plan is that it would cut directly through the sacred burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and cross the Missouri River, which is the Tribe’s main source of drinking water.
Months of protests have caught the attention and support of countless people worldwide. Actor Chris Hemsworth from Australia, for example, posted a picture to Instagram, holding a sign that reads, “We stand with Standing Rock #WaterIsLife #NoDAPL #MniWiconi.” Actress Shailene Woodley also went so far as to protest with those at Standing Rock this past summer, eventually leading to her arrest.
Although support is coming in from all over the world, there are many people locally who have shown support through prayer, donations, and actually going to Standing Rock.
Ivy Vainio, and her husband Arne, who are residents of the Northland, recently took a trip out to Standing Rock to show their support. “It was so life-changing for me,” Ivy said when recalling her experience.
Being welcomed with open arms, the entirety of her experience continued to be extremely peaceful. The protest Ivy and Arne took part in began with an elderly Native man asking only those who would be peaceful to join, and praying to not only their ancestors for protection, but to the ancestors of those in authority to show them that there’s no need for violence.
After being met early on by police, they had to get out of their cars and continue on by foot. After being met by another line of 20 officers shortly after, they were allowed to continue walking another three to four miles.
“[…]Then we got to the end of that, and we were met by 80 authorities… National Guard, Police, etc. all in riot gear. We got pretty close to them but that was a little intimidating. They had us park so far away because they thought we would back down, but almost everyone walked — elders, there was even a baby being held as we walked.”
Shortly after marching as far as authorities would let them, someone shouted, “fall back!” They all started to walk back with no incident.
Along with protesting at Standing Rock, Ivy and Arne have purchased military canvas tarps and have had people write words of encouragement on them for those who are camping out in the cold, winter months under the shelters.
Another local who has made the 479-mile trek from Duluth to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, is Valentin Salas. Arriving the day after a pipeline worker disguised himself as a protestor and was equipped with a loaded AR-15, tensions were high and authorities were in full force.
Since the north camp was evacuated due to this incident, Salas and his brother stayed at the main camp, helping out with cooking, cleaning and cutting wood.
Salas said his favorite memory of being there was when he and his brother were going to say a prayer by the fire and noticed a pow-wow going on. “It was a magical feeling,” Salas said. “[…] There was a drum and some singers and everybody was holding hands and dancing in a circle and the mood was completely changed. It was a really, really beautiful moment with lots of laughter.” This completely changed the mood from the high tensions of the day before, and Salas said the dancers were doing a healing dance and wearing jingle dresses, which essentially sound like water.
Although spirits were high in this moment, he said it’s important to remember the reason for protests in the first place. “I hope that the issues of environmental concern and safety are taken into consideration as kind of a starting point for further discussion,” Salas said. “[…] we should talk about the cost of things and consider those costs before we let multibillion dollar industry steamroll a local minority.”
Another local who just got back from Standing Rock a few days ago is Kym Young.
“I’m still kind of of disseminating my experience there, but it was very eye opening to go and be among the different tribes and all the people from all over and participate in the prayer ceremonies and learn more about DAPL and the Lakota people and the land,” Young said.
The protests at Standing Rock have been called the largest gathering of tribes from all over the country in over a century.
Young said she’s not completely ready to open up about her experience there yet, but that she’s “come back with new insights.”
Beside hoping for the protection of clean and sacred water, Young hopes, “[that there’s a] unification of the people because this is something we all need to unify around. This is not just about the Lakota people, this is about 18 million people that would be affected if the water is contaminated with the oil.”
The most recent turn of events at Standing Rock is that there has been an eviction notice. The Army Corps will reportedly be at Standing Rock on December 5 trying to evacuate protestors; however, hundreds of Veterans are headed there to show their support.
There are many other ways locals have shown support for Standing Rock, however.
“I’ve seen solidarity, gatherings… I know there’s been donation drives for supplies as well as funds,” Salas said.
Young also reached out via Facebook for donations and supplies, and drove out to Standing Rock with a car full of coats, donations, etc. She said, “[the] biggest needs are for wood, tent insulation, food, and water — always water. So those are things were going to try to push.”
The support worldwide has been “powerful,” Ivy Vainio said. “I get goosebumps, I don’t even know how to put it in words. […]Just the unity behind the people at each of the camps and the massiveness of the support is just mind-blowing to me, and empowering on so many different levels. On a personal level, on a community level, on a Native level — it gives hope to the youth, and to all of us.”
>> The article above was written by Jordan Goldberg, and is reprinted from Lake Voice News. The photograph was taken by Ivy Vaino.