By Aneyceia Brim
The Standing Rock protests have garnered nationwide support, and students from Puget Sound are no exception.
About 100 students attended Matt Remle’s talk about Standing Rock’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline on Nov. 10 and joined in the Medicine Creek Treaty Tribes Stand With Standing Rock’s protest. The protest took place on Saturday, Nov. 12 in downtown Tacoma.
Matt Remle is one of the leaders in the Standing Rock movement and a counselor in the Marysville/Tulalip school district, roughly an hour away from Puget Sound. He is also an editor of the website “The Last Real Indians.”
Remle’s talk explained the background of the Standing Rock movement. The discussion touched upon the movement’s origin, the time frame, how it has progressed and what role the website has played.
“The Last Real Indians” was created to voice the opinions and tell the narratives of native people from all over. It was a major factor in helping them stop the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2015.
Remle explained that the Dakota Access Pipeline, the subject of the most recent national protests, was proposed by a US company called Energy Transfer. In 2014 the company made plans to build the pipeline that will cross South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Illinois; in its initial development, the projected completion date was this year, according to Energy Transfer’s website.
“When they submitted their very first proposed route, the Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency which gets involved with permitting when it crosses federal lands, tribal lands, or bodies of water, rejected the proposal,” Remle said.
The original design would have had the pipeline cross the Missouri River and the city of Bismarck, North Dakota.
This proposal was rejected “because of the potential threat a busted or leaking oil pipeline would have on the population of Bismarck,” Remle stated. This led to the proposal of a new route, which instead goes directly through the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
“Apparently it’s not okay to threaten the drinking water supply of the white folk’s of Bismarck, but it’s totally fine to have this potential impact for not just the Standing Rock Sioux, but the Cheyenne River and numerous other Lakota reservations that are south of the Mississippi River,” Remle said.
The issue has united several native tribes together in an effort to stop the pipeline from happening. Supporters of Standing Rock have united with the tribes to start protests and petitions to stop the pipeline from being built. Among their supporters are environmentalists, humanitarians and even celebrities, such as Shailene Woodley.
Several concerns have been raised over the ethics of the pipeline and the conduct of Energy Transfer.
“Energy Transfer is not engaging in consultation with the tribes as they are required to via federal law. They’re not engaging with tribe counsel, they’re not holding public hearings in Standing Rock,” Remle said.
The pipeline would disturb burial grounds, historical sites, and sacred sites where natives go to pray.
At the heart of the controversy is the potential for water contamination and the effect the pipeline will have on climate change. The Eco Club of Puget Sound supports Standing Rock’s movement. The club rented vans from ASUPS and shuttled many of its members to the protest that took place in downtown Tacoma.
After the protest the club used Skype to contact Kandi Mossett, a leader in the Indigenous Environmental Network, to give people in Tacoma on the ground updates about what was happening at Standing Rock.
In addition to the Eco Club, about 1,000 people from the Tacoma community gathered to “Stand with Standing Rock.” The protest included a peaceful march and rally which went through Pacific Ave. and ended near the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus.
Lucy Soderstrom, a first-year student and member of the Eco Club was surprised by the number of people who showed up.
“It was inspiring. There [were] so many intelligent speakers,” Soderstrom said.
Many local tribes were present and their tribal council members were speakers for the rally. These speakers wanted to raise awareness not only for Standing Rock but for a local issue happening in Tacoma.
They encouraged the audience to protest the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant, created by Puget Sound Energy. The plant is located within a half a mile to Tacoma neighborhoods and businesses. Protesters insist the plant is too close and poses potential threats like liquid gas spills and explosions.
Speakers also asked protesters to stop supporting businesses that support the pipeline, such as Wells Fargo. They asked protesters to “close their accounts.”
The University is currently in a partnership with Wells Fargo and the ATM located in the Wheelock Student Center is a Wells Fargo ATM.
Wells Fargo is only one of many local banks that support the Dakota Access Pipeline, including JP Morgan Chase, Citzens Bank, CitiBank, Comerica Bank and U.S. Bank.
Speakers at the protest also voiced concerns over the recent election, as Donald Trump will most likely support the Dakota Access Pipeline. Remle called for solidarity among all groups, including African Americans and Muslims. Remle expressed the need for unity among all.