On Tuesday, January 24, 2017, President Donald Trump signed executive orders to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline.
On December 12, 2016, I wrote this article. And, apparently, I spoke too soon. After celebrating a triumph a little over a month ago, the people fighting for this issue are now responding to an executive action against their cause. Here is what some of them have to say.
Minna Banawan, UNC 2020
“I feel very angry about it but not surprised. Trump is exactly the kind of person to take something people have fought for for months and flush it down the toilet. The fact that he did this so quickly tells me he has no regard for the safety of the Native American community and that he probably did not have much time to even go into the reasoning behind Obama’s decision to halt it.”
Alexandria Treadway, Eastern Band Cherokee, UGA 2018
“Well, I’m not shocked. He has been said to have held stock in the company that is building the pipeline. What should I expect from someone who does not believe in climate change? I’m just praying that all of the protestors are able to stay strong and I wish I could be out there with them.”
Julia Kien, UGA 2018
“One step forward, two steps back. Welcome to Trump’s America.”
Kate Cooper, Eastern Band Cherokee, GWU 2019
“I am heartbroken. The water protectors put their lives on the line facing unnecessary arrests, police brutality, water cannons in freezing temperatures, rubber bullets and fighting for months and months on the front lines in cannonball. I go to school at George Washington University in D.C., and I was able to participate in several peaceful rallies and movements here and in front of the White House. After about eight months, the protectors finally caught the media’s attention. This helped tremendously, from Shailene Woodley recording her arrest on a Facebook Live video, to numerous actors and actresses joining in and traveling to the front lines and helping spread word through their fame and their voices. After the veterans joined in and came to the frontline to form human shields, I think that is what finally caught everyone’s attention, including the Obama administration. As a Native American, I can’t help but take this personally even beyond the conflict of saving clean water. The construction of this pipeline has gone through sacred burial sites, infringing upon numerous treaty rights. It makes me think, “When will this ever end? It’s 2017 and Native Americans are still being treated like this?” Trump giving the go-ahead to route the pipeline back through the reservation is like saying, “Let’s go build a pipeline through Italy or Ireland or any other country that I should have no say about.” It really is infuriating and heart-breaking. I can’t imagine seeing our sacred mounds on the Qualla Boundary being ripped apart and turned into construction sites. The fight is not over and I have faith that we can still protect the Standing Rock Reservation and end the construction of the pipeline altogether. It’s just going to take a lot of perseverance, love, faith and determination.”
Chloe Blythe, Eastern Band Cherokee, Queens University of Charlotte 2019
“I still stand with Standing Rock because EVERYONE deserves access to clean drinking water; no matter what the new administration may lead you to believe.”
Feelings of outrage and disappointment resonate in our country. But above these feelings is hope, and a product of hope is faith. I have faith in the intelligent, passionate students that are quoted in this article, and I still have faith in the hearts of this country.
Lead Image Credit: Kate Cooper