Local groups stand in solidarity with Standing Rock

Donation drives and benefit concerts create ways for locals to support the water protectors against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In front of the Schine Student Center last week, a group of Syracuse University students held signs that read “Celebrate Indigenous Survival,” “No DAPL” and “We Stand with Standing Rock!” They were waiting for the university to formally announce its recognition of Indigenous People’s Day on campus and spent the morning raising awareness about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Photo: Morgan Bulman
The Syracuse Peace Council accepted donation for Standing Rock at the Westcott Street Cultural Fair on Sept. 18.

These students were joining a movement that has spread across the country to show support and solidarity for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation of North Dakota, whose clean water supply is being threatened by DAPL.

Ilana Weinstein, a junior at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, decided to host a supply drive for those fighting through the winter, many of whom are locals from the Onondaga Nation.

“I want to stand up for people and organisms that don’t have a voice,” Weinstein said.

Earlier this year, DAPL began its projected development through Standing Rock Sioux Nation territory and nearly 200 rivers, including the Missouri and Mississippi River, the country's largest watershed. DAPL plans on transporting fracked oil from North Dakota to Illinois, which would threaten clean water sources for millions, its detractors say. The pipeline was temporarily put on hold Sept. 9 by the U.S. Department of Justice. Since then, construction has resumed after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe request for an injunction.

Weinstein came up with the idea to host a supply drive after the Director of the Center for Native Peoples, Robin Kimmerer, and its Assistant Director, Neil Patterson Jr, held an informational session about DAPL earlier this semester.

“It got to the point where we couldn’t ignore the situation and the call from the people there for help,” Patterson said.

As one of the two head Eco-Reps at SUNY ESF, an education group based around sustainable living, Weinstein collaborated with the Center for Native Peoples to put boxes at prominent centers in the university like Centennial Hall and Moon Library. She asked for hats, gloves, socks, tarps, blankets and camping equipment. She also asked that students who did not have the resources to submit written letters of support for the water protecters.

“I think it’s important that the people of Syracuse recognize we are on Onondaga land and to keep indigenous issues in their minds,” Weinstein said. “One reason we chose to do the supply drive was to show we’re not just sitting here talking about sustainability, but actually taking action.”

The Eco-Reps’ donations were delivered by Patterson to the Onondagas while the Syracuse Peace Council collected winter gear, like generators, through Oct. 2.

Indigenous nations are no stranger to environmental injustices, even locally, and organizations like the Syracuse Peace Council and Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) work to reprimand them. 

“Onondaga Lake and Onondaga Creek remain badly polluted,” Lindsay Speer from the Peace Council said. “The Onondaga Nation has experienced this and that’s why they’re standing in solidarity with Standing Rock – they know what it’s like to lose clean water and fish you can eat. We have to do what we can to help our neighbors here.”

The Onondaga Nation is hosting a benefit concert and rally on Oct. 22 featuring Johnny Ray and the Stone Throwers. Then on Nov. 2, local artist Irv Lyons, among other musicians, will be performing for a fundraiser at Funk n’ Waffles.

So far, over 300 indigenous nations and non-indigenous allies have gathered in Cannon Ball, North Dakota and locals, like SU student Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, are at the Sacred Stone Camp now. Jeanne Shenandoah, from the Onondaga Nation communications office, says what people really need to do is help spread the word.

“It’s not about one thing, this is about everybody,” Shenandoah said. "We need to protect the water from multi-national corporations. They have no consideration for the environment or for the future.”

Patterson said that DAPL not only threatens the integrity of clean water, but the trust between indigenous peoples and the government: it is part of a centuries-long history of settlers breaking their word.

“It’s not simply just clean water,” Patterson said. “There’s so much more that indigenous peoples face around the world. This is just one of many, many fights that are still going on.”

As DAPL and the resistance against it continue to gain national attention, community activists will continue asking questions about the effects of development projects on local territories. Speer says that governments and corporations should be seeking a more sustainable approach.

“It’s yet another pipeline we do not need,” Speer said. “We need to really invest in renewables and actively work to address climate change – building pipelines is going in the wrong direction.”

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