Written by Chaney Skilling
Several Colorado College students forwent a trip home over Fall Break, opting instead to undertake the 10-hour drive to Standing Rock, N.D. There, they joined the thousands that have come to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their protest of the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. Costing $3.8 billion, the pipeline would transport more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. According to tribal members, the pipeline would intrude on sacred land and tribal burial grounds and contaminate the reservation’s drinking water.
With the pipeline protests making national headlines, the most recent group of CC students—including sophomores John Henry Williams and Nate Goodman, and juniors Sophie Leamon and Fiona Cerf—joined CC sophomores Noah Hudnut and Ethan Cutler, who have been studying and participating in the protests during independent study blocks. Inspired to bridge the gap between values and actions, the 10-day Fall Break presented the perfect opportunity to make the trip.
“I talk about my social justice concerns, and after reading about Standing Rock and engaging with the Southwest in my coursework, I couldn’t imagine spending time on vacation with something like this happening,” said Southwest Studies major Goodman.
While there, Goodman and friends participated on the front lines in the peaceful demonstrations that have grown in number since July. Although protests have remained relatively peaceful, protestor-police confrontations have become more and more frequent in recent weeks. Marching and protesting around the construction site, protectors have been victims of rubber bullets, tear gas, police dogs, and fire hoses. The response to the protests escalated to such a point in November that the UN deemed it “inhumane treatment.”
“Going up, I knew I was throwing myself into a setting that was potentially dangerous and totally foreign,” said Goodman. “But what people don’t realize is that this is just another chapter of the continuous injustice towards the Native American people.”
According to Goodman, the reality of Standing Rock is drastically different from the scene the media portrays. Drawing primarily from the local sheriff’s department and government offices, Goodman said that the mainstream media fails to capture the Sioux Tribe’s perspective. “Standing Rock isn’t just people saying ‘this is our river.’ Everything we do there as a large community is an act of prayer and ceremony.”
Organized and approved by tribe leaders, newcomers encounter a lesser-known side of the protests: one dominated by compassion and reflection rather than rebellion. Goodman noted that the increasing crowds have created an “open invitation” to all who wish to join—engendering national support that Native Americans rarely receive.
“With more numbers there comes more strength and more opportunities,” said Goodman.
However, with the winter months fast approaching, the Standing Rock movement has come to a crucial point. As of now, the demonstrators stand united and determined.