Once again, social media has become a catalyst in gathering people together to protest the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, a large group of protesters that included UWM students, Native American protesters and non-native protesters gathered at the Ernest Spaights Plaza.
The event was called “a rally to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock defenders and protectors.” All attendees were frustrated with the events happening at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
“It’s just the treatment of the indigenous people,” said Amy Carley as she hoisted a somber black sign that said “water is life, no DAPL.”
“They’ve taken their land and water-what more can they take? It’s absolutely appalling.”
At the start of the protest, a scene of togetherness and solidarity took place. All of the protesters linked together, side-by-side, and proceeded to dance to the sound of the drum at center stage. Celeste Clark, an adviser at UWM with American Indian Student Academic Services, led the long line and encouraged people along the way to come along. Slowly, the line of protesters easily filled half of Spaights Plaza. Although this particular protest was peaceful, many of the participants were visibly emotional about the events at Standing Rock.
In particular, many protesters were dissatisfied with the lack of media coverage surrounding the protests, and wanted to help spread awareness.
“I would say there is no coverage,” said Lyn John, a Menominee tribal member. “Now, if you follow the right places, there’s information. The general public is just starting to hear about it.”
John says that the Menominee Tribal Council released a resolution in support of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and sent a load of firewood. However, many people continue to get information on the protests through social media, not the traditional news sources.
Just this week, a rumor began circulating on social media that law enforcement had been using the Facebook check-in feature to find and harass pipeline protesters. Various posts on the social media platform urged people to check-in to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to confuse police. Although, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department claimed that this rumor was inaccurate, many protesters continued to check in to show support.
“It’s a mix- there was a potential to confuse law enforcement and a way to show solidarity,” John said.
Various protesters have called out for solidarity among all people, saying that this is an issue that affects all Americans.
“This isn’t just an indigenous issue, it’s a human rights issue,” said Veronica Ergeson, a Forest County Potawatomi native. “The injustice that’s happening there is indisputably appalling and this is our generations chance to find our voice.”
Her sentiments were echoed by the handful of students who stood up to speak their minds at the protest. Some people issued statements of support and solidarity with the natives of Standing Rock. Others expressed a more direct anger at the government for its treatment of the native people. The onlookers listened silently and nodded their heads in agreement with the thoughts and ideas being shared.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a proposed 1,168 mile pipeline that would span four states. Although there is a large amount of oil potential in the area of the Dakotas, natives of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe claim that it will hurt the tribe’s well-being.
“It isn’t a matter of if a pipeline breaks, it’s when it breaks,” said Ergeson.
In addition to the fear of the pipeline breaking, the Standing Sioux Tribe says the it will destroy land that holds religious and cultural significance to them. In the formal complaint submitted by the tribe, their reservation includes extensive land that would be crossed by the proposed pipeline. The complaint says that “since time immemorial, the Tribe’s ancestors lived on the landscape to be crossed by the DAPL.”
The protesters at the Standing Rock Reservation continue their ongoing battle with law enforcement in an attempt to stop the pipeline project. Native Americans are calling out to all people in an attempt to gain more support.
“I think people should just come out and protest and donate to the tribe of they can, you know?” said Rose Gomez, a member of the Bad River Tribe. “Everyone just needs to come together.”