When attorney and social justice activist Bryan Stevenson visited Kenyon, he emphasized getting “proximate” to the people directly impacted by the issue at hand — encouraging six Kenyon students to journey to Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota to join the growing movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
The proposed 1,172-mile pipeline will cross four states, threatening the Missouri River, which 18 million people depend on for clean water. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is consciously destroying sacred sites on stolen 1851 treaty land and violating legal requirements for consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Police brutality is escalating with the use of attack dogs, rubber bullets and sound cannons. As educated citizens, we have the power to stop these deep injustices. I encourage you to join me in the NoDAPL movement.
After spending a summer on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, the meaningful relationships I built inspired me to return — seven times. I work at a donation-run residential camp on the Missouri River for Lakota children, attending powwows, funerals and other community gatherings. The children and families that have become a deep part of my life are some of the 18 million lives ignored by ETP, banks and politicians that prioritize profits. Two of my campers ran over 120 miles in 12 hours to Standing Rock, N.D. to show their support.
In response to the media blackout regarding this issue, I distributed 600 homemade booklets outside of Peirce. The booklet was titled, “What Would You Do Without Clean Water?” hoping to prompt the Kenyon community to think about our privilege. That night, a student approached me to say that, although his parents work in the oil industry, my booklet made him realize the gravity of this environmental and human rights violation.
With the public invitation from water protectors, support of many professors and Bryan Stevenson’s timely advice, six students left to get proximate for a week in Standing Rock. In the weeks leading up to our trip, we raised $2,000 and received various donations to bring with us. While there, we heard people’s stories, interrupted a gubernatorial debate, participated in direct actions at construction sites, helped winterize the kitchen and assisted with meal preparations and cleanup.
Last week, the Oglala Lakota rock band Scatter Their Own came to Kenyon. Their activist music champions the human right to clean water. They shared their stories of being at the NoDAPL frontlines and of their family members who are there protecting their land and water. Scotti Clifford, a member of the duo, explained that how we treat each other and how we treat the earth reflect one another. He told us that building relationships and learning about each other’s cultures are the only ways we can truly overcome our differences and unite as one human race.
Government officials and corporations like the fossil fuel industry are exploiting indigenous communities throughout the country and around the world. Many of their voices get silenced and their tragedies washed away. But in the face of this hardship, this movement has brought together almost 300 indigenous tribes and many allies around the globe. Not only are Natives standing up for their own rights, they’re standing up for everyone and for the right to clean water. They’re opposing this pipeline for the health and well-being of humanity.
At Kenyon it is easy to take water for granted. Even during Gambier boil alerts, we have guaranteed access to bottled water. I challenge you to put yourself in the shoes of those depending on the Missouri River to survive. They are fighting for life; not just their lives, but all life.
Would you stand up for your own access to clean water? What side of history will you be on? Join us and #StandWithStandingRock
Emma Schurink ’17 is a sociology major from Brooklyn, N.Y. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.