KSC students go to Standing Rock: The 1,700 mile long journey to the Sioux reservation

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday that they will look for an alternative route for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a huge win for the Sioux tribe and their vigorous supporters.

A group of 12 Keene State students traveled to Standing Rock over Thanksgiving break to stand in solidarity with Native Americans protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The group traveled over 1,700 miles and spent 36 hours in the car to make it to North Dakota. Since the pipeline’s approval in January, there have been ongoing protests at the Sioux reservation.

Sebastien Mhegan/Equinox Staff

Sebastien Mhegan/Equinox Staff

Police have responded with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and more. If the pipeline were to be built, it would destroy native burial grounds and pose a threat to the drinking water supply.

The students spent two full days at the camp and quickly became involved in the community.

“I learned that there is a lot to be done, whether it be organizing various donations including jackets, hats, gloves, lending a hand preparing food in one of the seven kitchens or helping those that arrive set up camp,” recalled Amber Stocking, Keene State junior.

KSC senior Maggie Mason said she helped plan the trip to assist the people there, further understand the injustices that are occurring and find out how people can make a difference in Keene.

She also organized a peaceful protest on the Student Center lawn before the trip to North Dakota.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delivered an eviction notice to Standing Rock the day after Thanksgiving, making it clear that they wanted the camp empty by Dec. 5. Yet,  protesters didn’t budge.

Since the eviction notice, some 2,000 U.S. veterans rallied to arrive at the Sioux camp beginning Dec. 4 with intent to lead the protests.

Later that night, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, released the following statement:

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said.

“The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

Sebastien Mhegan/Equinox Staff

Sebastien Mhegan/Equinox Staff

Despite an ongoing lack of mainstream media coverage concerning the pipeline protests, the veterans’ plan to stand with the Sioux tribe caught the attention of the nation. Mason believes the vets’ decision was the evident turning point.

“It was a very powerful statement which caught massive attention from the public eye,” Mason said.

“It says a lot about the power of protest and the power of prayer; mostly that voices can be heard, that we are stronger together and that violence is never the best option.”

The Army Corps is currently looking into other options for the pipeline, but there is no certainty when or if another route will be established, which could cause future tensions between the Sioux and the Army Corps of Engineers.

President-elect Donald Trump has supported the construction of the pipeline. He will be sworn into office come January.

Peter Dubois can be contaced at pdubois@kscequinox.com


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