Sunday, February 2, 2017, the Patriots beat the Falcons in the biggest football game of the year. I’m not sorry to say that I did not watch. I certainly wish I had seen Lady Gaga’s performance, because she’s fantastic. However, my attention was elsewhere, on a cause which is far more near and dear to my heart.
I had the honor and privilege of attending a fundraiser on the campus of my alma mater, North Central College, which was hosted by the North Central College Democrats and co-hosted by the student group which I was president of while on-campus, Green Scene. I was partially there to support the President who I installed as my successor, Emily Alaimo (who is a fabulous eco-warrior and a force to be reckoned with), and the rest of the group. I was also there to express my dissatisfaction that the Dakota Access Pipeline was being pushed forward by President Donald Trump, and has now been approved. The cost to attend the event was $10, and the money went to the Lakota People’s Law project, a group working to make change and fight for the rights of indigenous peoples across the United States.
The fundraiser raised over $1,000 for the Lakota People’s Law Projects an organization which seeks to stop the seizure of Lakota children by South Dakota’s Department of social services without warning. The thing is, according to lakotalaw.org, “The vast majority of the Native children in South Dakota are taken from their families because of a culturally biased definition of “neglect.” The state of south Dakota does not allow grandparents or other family members to act as foster parents so the children are not always taken care of by a “proper guardian” (defined in western culture and by US law as a parent). Some parents are told the child is taken because of small home size or improper standards of living. The Lakota People’s Law Project was founded to end this tragedy and fight for the rights of the indigenous people to care for their children in a way that aligns with their cultural values.
So what does that have to do with the Dakota Access Pipeline? Aside from being an environmental disaster, (which I’ll get into a bit later), this is an issue of indigenous rights. First, I’ll start with something basic that most people can relate to.
Would you want an oil pipeline running through your backyard?
In truth, that’s all it is.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, according to time.com (the web home of Time magazine) is a pipeline to be built by Energy Transfer Partners which would transport crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The proposed route for the pipeline would travel underneath the Missouri River, “the primary drinking water source of the Standing Rock Sioux…the Standing Rock Sioux also argue that the pipeline traverses a sacred burial ground. And while the land being used for the pipeline is not technically on its reservation, tribal leaders argue that the federal government did not adequately engage the Standing Rock Sioux during the permitting process-a requirement under federal law.”
Ok. Cool. So, would you want an oil pipeline running through your backyard? No? What about through your drinking water source? Also no, I’m willing to bet. What about through the grave site of generations of your family? I certainly wouldn’t. Oh, and the people who built it didn’t talk to you before deciding they were going to do it?
I’d be angry, too. But because the Standing Rock Sioux belong to a minority group that the U.S. government has tried to shove away into the farthest most remote corners of the country and treat as second class citizens (seriously, look up what the United States has done to indigenous peoples over the years, it’s really bad), we think it’s ok to put a pipeline there.
Which begs the question, why do the Standing Rock Sioux not want a pipeline (other than what I already mentioned? Pipelines leak.
Almost all of them.
Sunoco, the company that would be the one to build the pipeline with the Army Corps of Engineers, is responsible for the largest amount of oil spillage of any pipeline manufacturer.
It’s no wonder the people of Standing Rock are concerned.
The event last Sunday was well attended by people in the community. There were several speakers:
Andrew Van Gorp, founder and director of Sustain DuPage, a local nonprofit organization
Steve Macek, a communications professor at North Central College
Tony Mikelowksi, a former local elected official
The head of the NCC College Democrats
And a surprise speaker, a woman whose daughter had reported on what is happening at Standing Rock, who felt compelled to speak.
Though the topics and methods of speaking of each of these individuals was different, they all addressed the idea of home.
The idea of home is one that we seriously need to keep in mind, not only as it relates to the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project which poses as serious threat to the homes of many Americans (and yes, the people of Standing Rock are Americans, too. The land of the Dakotas is my home, because it is part of my country), but as it relates to each individual who was in that room on Sunday, and each individual reading this blog post.
Environmentalism is about protecting our home. We only have one planet, and it is home. There are those that say if we trash earth, we can move to Mars or somewhere yet to be discovered (good luck with that, different topic for a different day), but it doesn’t matter. Our home is here. You don’t trash the home you have with the assumption that you can just find a new one. That’s insanity. You care for it, you love it, you steward it. Your home is also your community which you live in. I encourage everyone to get involved in local policy and local activism. Do you know the stream in your backyard? Your parks? Those are your home, too. Foster a land conservation ethic in people by reconnecting them with the planet. All it takes is a walk outside.
On a broader scale, thinking about what is going on with our country’s leadership (that I strongly disagree with) taking action has to do with a sense of pride in my home. This is not how I want my home, my country, to act. It is not how I want us to be perceived in the eyes of the world, and it is not how I think that we should be treating our family, our fellow Americans. To those who tell me that it doesn’t matter, I disagree, and I will continue to fight with my home, while fueling myself with the company of like-minded individuals. I was blessed to stand up with my fellow Napervillians, DuPage County-ans, and North Central College Community members for what we believe in. Thank you to NCC for hosting, and for all my fellow warriors for being there with me!