#NoDAPL has become a serious issue for many different groups on campus. Almost 100 students participated in Northwestern’s #NoDAPL rally on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and several participated in an anti-DAPL march with three other Chicago universities on Friday, Nov. 4 – an event that started on Facebook and caught on across Chicago. Protests have broken out nationwide and have grown increasingly contentious as activist arrests continue to grow, currently totaling over 140. So, let’s talk about how students here can help combat the wide-reaching implications this pipeline might have.
What is DAPL?
The Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, is a proposed underground oil pipeline that would transfer over 450,000 barrels of crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Originally, it was planned to cross through the Missouri River north of Bismarck, but was rerouted partially because of potential threats to Bismarck’s water supply.
However, the rerouted pipeline now goes through the Standing Rock Sioux (comprised of the Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota) tribe's sacred land, which includes prayer sites and burial grounds. It also now threatens their main water source; if the pipe were to explode, it could potentially devastate the tribe’s access to clean water and pose a serious environmental risk.
Why is it important?
Besides the environmental threats and potential harm to Native American ritual land, political science graduate student Charles Clarke argues Northwestern students have another reason to protest DAPL: Northwestern’s partnership with one of the pipeline’s main financiers, U.S. Bank. In the last few months, U.S. Bank has donated over $175 million dollars to energy transfer partners responsible for DAPL. Clarke spearheaded Northwestern’s involvement in Friday’s march to draw attention to the university’s direct connection with the pipeline.
“I bet if I go out and talk to your average Northwestern student on the street, they’ll know what DAPL is, and they’ll hate it,” Clarke said. “But they may not know that we, by virtue of giving this access and privilege to U.S. Bank, are actively supporting it, and I for one can’t accept that.”
Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance President and Medill senior Lorenzo Gudino said he encourages students to learn more about the issue so they can further understand the tribe’s position. Recently, the protests and media coverage have made this a mainstream issue, but Gudino said people should do their own research beyond the media coverage.
“It’s sad because this has been going on for a while,” Gudino said. “It’s great people are taking notice, but if they can get a further grasp on what’s going on, they’ll be able to help more.”
How can I help?
For students who want to get involved, Gudino said financial support can go a long way. Donating to organizations or sending monetary contributions for legal funds to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe can be an easy way to make a big impact. You can check out a fundraising site here and materials the tribe needs here.
“There are people out there who know what they need, and financial support will help them out a lot,” Gudino said.
Clarke encouraged students to put pressure on the Northwestern Board of Trustees to break the university’s partnership with U.S. Bank. The Board of Trustees currently includes no undergraduate or graduate students, and Clarke said this was part of the reason this U.S. Bank partnership has continued.
“We have to stand up collectively as members of the Northwestern community and say ‘The administration isn’t the University; we’re the University,’” Clarke said. “We make the rules around here, and we’re not going to take this.”
You can also get involved through something as small as spreading the word in day-to-day conversation and social media. The march on Saturday started with a few interested students and grew through Facebook to involve four total universities across the Chicago area. Additionally, according to Clarke, putting pressure on the administration to allow a student on the board, or at least to observe meetings, will help make sure student opinions regarding U.S. Bank are heard.
Additionally, contacting policy makers can be an effective way to make sure your interests are represented. To write to an Evanston lawmaker specifically, you can contact district representative Jan Schakowsky (for information on how to write a letter to Congress, see here). Finally, you can get involved with the on-campus protests on November 15 for National DAPL Day.