To preface this article, when referring to the S*oux Native peoples, this writer will instead use the name, Oceti Sakowin, as the Oceti Sakowin people have communicated that the term S*oux is a slur, and that it is disrespectful for non-Oceti Sakowin to use the word S*oux, as it is not their word to reclaim. Further, use of “S*oux” in this article will be censored accordingly.
Many are aware that the Oceti Sakowin tribe has sued the federal government, asserting that their people were not adequately consulted regarding constructing, “A 1,168-mile crude oil pipeline that extends over four states,” reports CNN journalist, Madison Park. Dubbed the Bakken Oil Pipeline, the US Geological Survey estimates that there is over seven point four billion oil barrels, spanning the states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
Further, Park cites a statement from Dave Archambault II, Standing Rock S*oux Tribe Chairman, explaining why the Oceti Sakowin people are protesting the pipeline construction. “We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites,” said Archambault II.
Protests have spawned across the country, including UNCG, which held the event, “UNCG Stands in Solidarity with Standing Rock S*oux,” on Sept. 7 at 1:00 p.m., on the Elliot University Center lawn.
Organized by UNCG club, Defund Racism, club members as well as many Native peoples attended the event.
Holding a sign reading, “Children Don’t Drink Oil #NODAPL,” and adorned in a bright blue shawl and necklace containing Native symbols, Joy Hunt, UNCG freshman and native woman, spoke with The Carolinian, regarding the importance of standing with the Oceti Sakowin peoples’.
“It does [affect me on a personal level], the S*oux tribe has reservations and they have sacred lands there [in the area the pipeline is being built], and the pipeline is cutting straight through their land, which is going to damage a lot of the water, and the farmland. And people drink that, animals drink that, and they use it many different ways; and really, it wasn’t their [the United States’] land to take, it was the S*oux’s land. And the fact that they’re [the United States] just completely ignorant to the fact that those are sacred burial grounds and prayer grounds and just cultural sites, really affects me because it could happen here [to my tribe].”
To inform people of the pipeline being built on the Oceti Sakowin lands’, Hunt stressed the need for media coverage, as well as coverage which centers Indigenous voices.
Lumbee Tribe member and UNCG sophomore, Seth Oxendine — holding a sign reading: “Water is Life, free the land”— shares Hunt’s sentiments. “I believe that our [indigenous] land is very sacred to us, very important to us, and we are protectors of this land and mother earth, which just gives us life. And that’s what we need, because without water, there is no life, there is no oxygen, and so it really does affect me personally.”
What can be done about the pipeline, Oxendine believes, is more media attention.
Event organizer, Chauncey James, UNCG sophomore, stated that he organized the event as a statement of solidarity with the Oceti Sakowin people, in a similar way that people stood for the water contamination crisis, in Flint, Michigan.
“I think if you look earlier in the year, you saw it happen to Flint, Michigan, where the water there was just contaminated, and it affected hundreds of thousands of people. We know about that, but this [the Bakken pipeline] we do [also] have information about. Not even just now, but it will affect the water supply of Native American tribes, and it’s just going to cause, so much devastation to that land in just a few years’ time. It’s going to become recognizable, so I really think that we just have the opportunity to prevent another Flint from happening,” said James.
The Carolinian also spoke with the second event organizer, Lucia Sedda, UNCG sophomore, who stressed the importance of UNCG spreading the message about what is happening in North Dakota, and standing in solidarity with the Oceti Sakowin people.
“I think [media covering this] is the only way to do it [spread awareness]. I think a lot of people are told in schools and their universities that, protesting should be peaceful, protesting should be this and that, but in fact, protesting has been used — has been kind of whitewashed in our textbooks — and what we’ve learned in history, is that it [protesting] has always been a threat to the institutions that hold, and that continue to oppress, more specifically, black and brown people,” said Sedda.
With regard to the intention of the protest — preventing Bakken pipeline construction — on Sept. 10, a federal judge ruled against the Standing Rock Oceti Sakowin people, appealing for pipeline construction to end. Transformativespaces.org journalist and Native woman, Kelly Hayes, explained recent misinformation which has appeared regarding this ruling.
The misinformation, Hayes states, is that Obama administration would subsequently step in and halt pipeline construction after the federal court ruling.
Hayes writes, “The Obama administration has not stepped in and halted pipeline construction. Federal officials are asking people to ‘voluntarily’ stop work in (in some locations), while federal agencies reexamine their previous decisions.” Hayes, as well as many Native people this reporter spoke with, stressed that this battle is far from over.