In recent weeks, Macalester students have travelled to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota to support the water protectors demonstrating against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Among those who went were Margaret Breen ’20, Markus Hoeckner ’17, JP Sieck ’18 and Jessica Yost ’18.
All four emphasized the peaceful atmosphere of the camp and how welcoming the residents were. According to Hoeckner, “Once you’re in the camp, everything is lively. There’s always drumming going on, there’s singing, dogs running around.” At the camp, students demonstrated their support in a number of ways. Yost and Sieck primarily prepared meals and sorted donations. During her time at Standing Rock, Breen participated in a march to a local police station. At the station, participants joined arms in a circle surrounding the building in an act of forgiveness towards the officers.
The students gave words of advice to those who wish to support the water protectors at Standing Rock. Although they emphasized the importance of having supporters at the reservation, those who want to help can do so by donating to the camp or by attending events in the Twin Cities. They also said that it is important to be informed about what is happening at the reservation, and that it is important to have conversations with others about it.
However, they emphasized that before taking action, it is important to understand your role within the movement. Hoeckner, who has made multiple trips to the camp and is making a documentary about the movement, offered advice to outsiders seeking to be involved.
“This is an indigenous movement,” Hoeckner said. “Be respectful of their protocols, be respectful of the elders because the elders determine everything.”
Sieck echoed these sentiments, stating over email, “I loved going to Standing Rock, and I loved supporting the movement. But, I know after hearing stories and seeing outsiders come in and act like they understood the struggle, that as a non-native, they needed me to cook and sort donations and follow directions, but not be on the front lines.”
In light of the recent election, the fate of the pipeline is uncertain. There is hope that President Obama will stop construction of the pipeline during his remaining time in office, but it is possible that the fate of the pipeline will be left for Trump to decide. While Trump has not specifically commented on the Dakota Access Pipeline, many believe that he will ensure that the pipeline is built. Yost echoed these concerns. “The pipeline is going to happen, it’s definitely going to happen. It’s just a matter of how it’s going to happen and where it’s going to go.”
Breen held a more positive view, saying, “I have no doubt that they are going to do everything they can to push it through, but they can’t build it if we are standing in front of it.”