AISA, Buder Center host educational event on DAPL
In response to the recent protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, N.D., the American Indian Student Association and the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies partnered to organize an informational event called “Standing With Standing Rock,” on Thursday, Nov. 17.
The evening began with a traditional blessing, which was recited by one of the members of the American Indian Student Association (AISA) in the Buder Garden outside of Hillman Hall. Participants gathered in a circle as opening remarks were made, and then moved to the main event inside Hillman.
The intent of the night was to educate and inform people about the ongoing struggle at Standing Rock, where thousands of American-Indians have protested the implementation of the fracked oil pipeline, which they believe could pollute the main water source of the Sioux tribe, as well as that of 8 million other people living near the proposed pipeline.
In addition to the threat of pollution, the pipeline would run through the sacred burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The Sioux claim that this violates the 1851 Treaty, in which the United States recognized the tribe’s territories as their own.
To spread awareness of these issues, the organizers of Standing with Standing Rock displayed posters around the room that highlighted the main facts surrounding the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). They also projected videos and news segments from the protests. There was a place to make protest posters, as well as a station set up for signing a petition against the DAPL. Lastly, members of the AISA and the Buder Center were present to answer any questions from participants.
“We wanted to bring awareness about the issue and show that even though the movement has been led largely by Native American people, this is an issue that affects all of us, even in St. Louis, because the pipeline would be running under the Missouri River,” Apryl Joe, a first-year graduate student in the Brown School of Social Work, said.
The event was also open to members of the St. Louis community. AISA and the Buder Center reached out to local Native American people in the St. Louis community to let them know of the event.
“Most of the [Native American] community in St. Louis is really scattered, so you’re not going to see larger numbers like in other cities like Chicago, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and you’re not going to see a large picture of support against the pipeline. But we’re here, and any time we can support a Native American issue we try to do that,” Sherry Tulach, a St. Louis local said.
In addition to the AISA and the Buder Center, some Washington University faculty were involved in the planning process. University College Dean Mark Rollins helped talk through some of the goals of the event with the organizers.
“For me, speaking as dean of University College, our mission is community outreach. That is, to provide educational opportunities to people in the wider community than we find in an ordinary scope at Wash. U.,” Rollins said. “And that means educating them about a lot of things, such as social, political and ethical issues. [Standing Rock] is obviously one that is urgent, and I want to try to help introduce people in the Washington University community, and the larger community, to this issue.”
At the end of the event, participants could pick up a pin with two strands of blue yarn attached to it. Although this is not a national symbol of alliance with Standing Rock, it was used as a symbol for members of the University community to show their solidarity. The blue yarn represents the sacred water, according to one volunteer at the event.
According to the organizers of the event, the best things that the Washington University community can do to help Standing Rock are to become educated about how the DAPL would affect different communities, sign petitions against it and contact representatives about the issue.