Mni Wiconi: Water is Life

Olivia Gomez, Staff writer

A moment of silence for the water protectors.


Four days after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, he signed an executive order that allowed construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue. The pipeline would stretch 1,182 miles, pump thousands of barrels of oil per day, and run under the Missouri River. The tribes that have gathered at Standing Rock say the pipeline is a threat not only to their land, but to their drinking water.


Protesters were later ordered to leave the site by Feb. 22. Construction began two days before.


In an age of what Thursday night’s host called “hashtag activism” and “slacktivism,” many find themselves wanting to help, but not knowing how. At Voices from Standing Rock, students and community members who protested at the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota shared their experiences and answered questions.


Dozens of students, staff, community members and their families crowded the Pioneer Reading Room for over an hour and a half. One panelist kept pulling chairs from the supply closet, and late arrivals went without. Nevertheless, when the host, Linfield’s Sustainability Coordinator Duncan Reid, asked for a moment of silent prayer and reflection, he got it.


“Our information about this has been isolated to social media for a while,” Reid said in response to many audience members saying social media made them aware of the protests. He projected two short videos onto a screen, both showing Lakota people asking for help.


The panelists made clear, though, that aiding the protesters was not something to be done for one’s own image. They emphasized how humbling it was to be at the camp, and that the fight to protect Native American land is not over when the protesters go home.


“They are fighting still; whether I am there or not, whether I pay attention or not,” said senior Alex Dinh.


Reid said it was the images of assault and violence he and the other panelists saw on social media that inspired them to protest on site. Members of the panel repeatedly mentioned rubber bullets, pepper spray and water cannons.


“To date, no officers have been charged with the use of excessive force,” he said. But some protesters who were severely hurt have filed class action lawsuits.


For people who cannot get to the scene of a protest but still want to help, attending discussion-based events is a good way to start, Reid said. He offered the names of two organizations, the Yamhill Valley Peacemakers and Pacific Northwest Stands with Standing Rock, that stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux.


From March 7-9, Native leaders will lobby Washington, and on March 10, they and their allies will march to the White House.


Voices from Standing Rock was sponsored by PLACE.