UAF Students stand with Standing Rock
“When I say ‘Standing Rock,’ you say ‘justice’ When I say ‘water is,’ you say ‘life,’’” shouted the crowd in Constitution Park. About 50 students, faculty, UAF Climate Action and the Native Student Union members rallied on Sept. 13 in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
Speakers attending the protest expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s lack of interest in indigenous needs. Issues discussed throughout the course of the protest included lack of recognition of indigenous peoples’ lifestyles, climate change, water pollution, sustainable and consciences energy usage practices, modern colonialism and land preservation for future generations.
“So many tribes right now are standing in unity and we haven’t seen this kind of tribal unity definitely in my lifetime,” Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition member Enei Begaye said.
The speakers brought up the issue of environmental racism — the belief that the rights of minorities are given lower priority when it comes to environmental issues.
“These pipelines, they bypass rich suburban neighborhoods and they go straight through Indian country, they go straight through burial grounds without consultation,” ASUAF Senator Ben Nemqerralria Anderson said.
“We’re not promoting the traditional conservationist agenda,” Native Student Union President Christina Kk’odohdaatlno Edwin said. “This is denouncing our indigenous sovereign rights and we’re going to be loud about that.”
The DAPL’s proposed location is Lake Oahe, ND; a half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This re-purposing of the land has inspired indigenous peoples of Standing Rock and from all over North America to unite in opposition to the pipeline’s construction forming the national day of action of the Keep-It-In-The-Ground movement.
“[The pipeline’s presence] will desecrate or outright destroy any number of sites held sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe: symbolic cairns, stone prayer rings, even burial grounds,” CommonDreams.org reads.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is currently planned to span 1,172 miles and four states, from the Bakken and Three Forks production areas, North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. It will transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil every day. The pipeline is a $3.7 billion investment, according to DAPL Pipeline Facts.
“It’s crazy to see that [Dakota Access LLC] actually construct over the burial grounds. If it’s not right to do it over an American cemetery, then why is it okay to do it over a burial ground?” Tribal Management student, Esau Sinnok.
The rally was organized mainly by the Native Student Union and UAF Climate Action. Other organizations that played a role were the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition and the Gwich’in Steering Committee.