Regardless of what you’ve heard, the fight between the Dakota Access Pipeline and the gathering of hundreds of tribes, individuals, and activists supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is about more than protecting a precious water source.
“It’s about history; it’s about legacy,” Erin Inglish said.
The banjo-playing San Luis Obispo songwriter is on a mission to join that protest, that protection of land. She’s building a caravan full of supplies and heading out to North Dakota on Nov. 15 with San Luis Obispo-based photographer Brittany App and other county residents at her side.
- PHOTO BY ROBERTO MONGE
- PROTECT THE SACRED: Some SLO County residents are getting ready to caravan out to North Dakota and support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would transport oil from the Dakota oil fields to Illinois, skirting tribal land and running under the Missouri River.
People have been camped near the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri rivers since April, protesting the oil pipeline, which skirts the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation (the pipeline route comes within half a mile of tribal land) and is slated to travel under both the Missouri River and Lake Oahe—key sources of drinking water for the Sioux. The tribe has actively opposed the pipeline, which will run more than 1,100 miles from the oil fields of the Dakotas through Iowa and to a river port in Illinois, since first learning about the proposal in 2014.
The initial proposal considered two routes: the one that is being protested now and one that would have crossed to the north, near Bismarck, N.D. Bismarck’s residents and City Council protested the latter proposed route, so the pipeline nixed it due to concerns about contaminating the town’s drinking water supplies.
Despite the tribe raising similar concerns as well as worries about sacred land, burial sites, and cultural artifacts in the pipeline’s path on land once owned by the Sioux, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the current route on July 25 of this year.
“People affected by pipelines … by environmental disasters … are too often poor people,” Inglish said. “There’s an incredible and unfathomable revolution going on in Standing Rock right now. And by revolution, I mean awakening.”
An awakening to the historical legacy of injustices against Native American tribes, not only in the United States, but also around the world, she said. And it’s being led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which filed a motion Aug. 4 in U.S. District Court for an injunction to stop the pipeline’s construction, alleging that the U.S. Army Corps illegally skirted around federal law requiring it to consult with the tribe on the project proposal. The movement against the pipeline has grown since then, with hundreds of protesters flocking to Sacred Stone Camp. Clashes with Morton County Sheriff’s Office deputies, the U.S. Army National Guard, and a private security firm have garnered national headlines and even more support for the anti-pipeline side.
Some protesters are determined to settle in for the winter to ensure that the pipeline’s construction stays stopped in its tracks. With temperatures that don’t make sense to the residents of San Luis Obispo County (and other similar areas of the country), some of the things protesters are asking for are donations of winter clothing—beanies, gloves, long underwear, snow jackets.
Inglish is asking sympathetic county residents for the same, as well as items like toiletries, sub-zero camping equipment, non-perishable food items, “solar-powered anything,” medical supplies, and monetary donations. She’s also asking for things like goggles, to protect protesters’ eyes when they’re hit with pepper spray or tear gas.
“Everything that’s donated, I intend to find the highest and greatest use for it possible,” she said. “I know I’m not alone in the call to solidarity with Standing Rock.”
SLO resident Roberto Monge, who flew to North Dakota in October to try and set up internet access for protesters and journalists at the camp, said it’s the sixth caravan that he knows of that’s been to or heading for Standing Rock from SLO County. And he’s helped organize 40 caravans from around the country so far to bring supplies and support to the protest. He calls the pipeline’s route an act of “environmental racism,” and said it’s something that happens way too often.
“There’s so many needs over there,” he said, adding that there’s a huge online community helping to get things organized. The caveat to all that support, though, is this: It needs to be peaceful. Monge said that’s what the tribe wants.
Want to help? Visit erininglish.com to learn about what’s needed at Standing Rock and to find out where to drop off items. Donations can also be made directly to the tribe at standwithstandingrock.net.
Editor Camillia Lanham wrote this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.