Dakota Access Pipeline protesters stand outside the Chase building in downtown Indianapolis on Nov. 15 to encourage others to divest from the companies like Chase Bank that are funding the construction of the pipeline. Protesters are also encouraged to send donations to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and to their legal defense fund. Kelli Huth // Photo Provided
Ball State faculty member returns from Standing Rock in North Dakota
It's been a long fight for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota.
Thousands have traveled to Standing Rock, spending months demonstrating against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a billion-dollar project launched by Energy Transfer Partners, a natural gas and propane company building the pipeline.
Energy Transfers said the pipeline would bring millions of dollars into local economies as well as create thousands of construction jobs. Opponents of the pipeline say the oil line threatens to harm the environment and local water supply, as well as break a land rights treaty between the Nation and the American government.
Kelli Huth, director of immersive learning for entrepreneurial learning, recently visited the campsite, offering donations and support on the ground with her 11-year-old daughter, Ivy.
"When we arrived, we saw right away just how exhausted people are already,” Huth said. “People have been there for a long time, some since April.”
Huth and her daughter made the drive to Standing Rock in late October. The pair, Huth said, was welcomed by the people at the camp, who call themselves "water protectors."
"We were embraced immediately," Huth said. “Even though you could sense the stress, and people being tired, they're still very, very loving and accepting of the people who are coming to stand beside them,”
While at Standing Rock, Huth spent time helping to sort the donations that were coming into camp. Organizing donations can be a challenge at the camp, and Huth said she spent several days working to sort through blankets, teepee liners and food.
Since the demonstration began in April, Native American tribes from across the country and Canada have joined the camp to show their support. Huth said she encountered people from all over the world there, some from as far as Hong Kong and Germany.
"I met some wonderful people there — there are lots of different people who are coming to stand together for this and it was really amazing to see that kind of unity," Huth said. "There was a woman from Louisiana that I met who doesn’t have a drop of Native blood, but she had been there already for almost six weeks and was looking to be a leader in the camp. She was probably in her early seventies. And she had no intention of leaving anytime soon."
Huth said the unity was much needed, and tensions in North Dakota are higher than ever. Recently, there have been a number of reported injuries as a result of pepper spray, rubber bullets and water cannons being fired at demonstrators by the police. The pipeline construction is now very close to reaching the Cannonball River, which acts as the water supply for the tribe and many others.
“They're getting to a critical point, and the police violence has increased,” Huth said.
The water protectors have made multiple calls to state and federal government to put a halt to construction. Though there was a brief pause in construction earlier this year, the project is expected to move forward to completion.
“The people there are very frustrated with how the government has handled this,” Huth said. “But with the election of Trump, who has invested almost a million dollars in this oil company, there’s not a lot of hope there. Even if this administration does make a decision, will that be upheld under the new administration? Donald Trump doesn’t seem to be very concerned about defending Native Americans or taking care of the environment, so that’s a little bit terrifying for them.”
Since coming back to Muncie, Huth said it's been hard to readjust. Her mind, she said, is with those at Standing Rock every day. Huth took part in a demonstration in Indianapolis on Nov. 15 to show support for Standing Rock Sioux Nation. It was one of many that took place across the country, in what organizers called a national day of action.
"It’s hard after being through something so powerful like that and realizing the huge challenges that they face to sort of come back and reintegrate in my daily life here," Huth said. "Being a part of that protest was important for me to feel like I’m reconnecting, and continuing from here, to support what’s going on out there."
But the longer those at Standing Rock have to fight, the more "sickened" Huth said she gets.
"There were indigenous people on this land for thousands of years and they were able to live in a sustainable way. They didn’t abuse our natural resources and they were not greedy and they didn’t destroy the environment.," Huth said. "You know, if you look at history we have not done right by the indigenous cultures. And we continue to fail them. But they keep standing together — they're very brave — and they are teaching us all something by standing up like this."
Huth encouraged others to send donations to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and to their legal defense fund to support the water protectors who were being arrested by police. Divesting from the companies that are funding the pipeline, such as Chase Bank, is another way to support the effort at Standing Rock, she said. There are also petitions online to show opposition to the pipeline.
Huth said there was also a need for people to help at the camp in North Dakota before it's shut down.
“Now, more than ever, it's critical that when we witness injustice, we say or do something about it. There is no time to be quiet when civil liberties are threatened," Huth said. "We need to give a voice to people who don't have one. We cannot underestimate the damage that can be done by greed and discrimination, but we also cannot underestimate the healing power of love and acceptance. Love always wins.”