USD joins pipeline protests

signsOn Tuesday, members of the USD community and local tribe members gathered to protest and teach others about the the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. The protests, which started earlier this year, had stayed largely out of the news until recently.

The protests revolve around a four-state, $3.8 billion oil pipeline. The pipeline is slated to be built through several sacred burial sites for the Native American tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The tribe and the community also fear that it could pollute the nearby Missouri River, the sovereign nation’s water supply.

The protests have gained widespread media attention after award-winning journalist Amy Goodman and actress Shailene Woodley were arrested. Goodman was arrested for her coverage of the protest and Woodley was arrested for protesting the pipeline. Goodman was later charged for her apparent participation in the protest; however, a judge ruled to dismiss the case shortly after.

Since Goodman’s arrest, the protests have grown significantly. Protesters have taken to the streets of many cities around the U.S., and a strong social media presence has built around the protest. Social media users were urged to check-in on Facebook at Standing Rock protests and locations. This started occuring after protesters discovered that there was a chance that police were tracing protesters through their Facebook locations. By Facebook users checking-in worldwide, it created a sea of users that forced local police to sort through to discover who was actually at the protests.

singersThe protests in North Dakota have varied day to day. Some have remained peaceful, but police began arresting protesters after altercations started occurring. Protesters claimed the increase in violence and tension was due to the increase militarized police presence. The police argued that the strong presence was needed because of the number of protesters and several events which led to the damage of construction equipment.

Currently, construction is at a halt due to the protest. The American Indian and Indigenous Student Organization (AIISO) wanted to bring attention to the matter to show their unity with the tribes and protesters in Standing Rock.

Bobby Wallace, a  member of the Barona Band of Mission Indians, spoke to a crowd of USD students.

“It is you guys that can inspire and change the world,” Wallace said. “You guys have a voice to make a difference.”

AISSO sold t-shirts in support of the Sioux tribe at Standing Rock, with all the proceeds going to support the tribe currently there.

Local community members helped to educate USD students about the issue. With the election of President-elect Donald Trump, the Keystone Pipeline has become a major issue. Trump has been criticized for his stance on the environment, which includes his public uncertainty of the existance of global warming, and the protest could be a big win to set the tone on environmental issues moving forward.

Senior Monica Lopez helped create the event at USD and was hopeful that even USD’s community can help support the tribes in North Dakota.

“As a university, it is our duty to stand up for social justice,” Lopez said. “As an often underrepresented group, it is important to let students know about the issues in Standing Rock, and this is only the beginning. I hope the student body can get educated about the issues nationwide and spark some interest.”

The U.S. Army corps of engineers, who were commissioned to build the pipeline, are now considering other options for the pipeline’s path. Environmental conservatives, however, are looking to rally the passionate protesters to not only help avoid the destruction of sacred tribal sites, but to completely stop the construction of the pipeline.

The construction of the pipeline has currently been halted by the U.S. Court of Appeals. There is no idea when the court will return a decision on whether the pipeline will be allowed or not.