Environmental justice, tribal rights and culture, water access and respect of women were central themes at a Tuesday night teach-in about Standing Rock’s resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, commonly known as DAPL.
Over 100 Yalies and community members filled LC 102 to hear Mary Kathryn Nagle, a partner at Pipestem Law and the Executive Director for the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program, speak about the ongoing protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota.
DAPL, which would transport crude oil across the Midwest, is currently under construction by energy company Energy Transfer Partners on land of important cultural value to the Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock. It also runs under the Missouri River, the main source of water for the tribe.
Since 2015, the Tribe has been resisting the pipeline with legal suits and peaceful protests.
The teach-in, which lasted from 7 to 8 p.m., was hosted jointly by the Association of Native Americans at Yale, the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, the Native American Law Students Association and Fossil Free Yale.
“There’s a reason we call our Earth ‘Mother Earth,’” said Nagle. “Our future generations are sustained by water, land and the bodies of our women. Violence against Mother Earth results in violence against women’s bodies. The two have historically gone hand in hand. Violence against tribal lands and Native women was at one point a strategic method used to eradicate Tribal Nations.”
Nagle explained there is evidence of a correlation between an increase in extractive resources and an increase in violence against Native women. She suggested an influx of non-native men in the “man camps” used by the extractive industries in North Dakota and Montana, combined with the Supreme Court’s 1978 decision to eliminate tribal jurisdiction over non-native individuals who commit crimes on tribal lands, has left Native women unprotected. As a result of the Bakken oil boom over the last ten years, North Dakota has become the leading producer of oil in the United States. It now is home to some of the highest rates of abuse, rape, murder and sex trafficking in the country, she said.
Nagle emphasized that, as a citizen of Cherokee Nation, she cannot speak for Standing Rock — instead, she speaks an ally.
Highlighting the environmental risks of the pipeline in her talk, Nagle said Energy Transfer Partners originally planned to run the pipeline near Bismarck, North Dakota, but altered their route due to potential water contamination to Bismarck’s drinking water. The pipeline company did not even put Standing Rock on their original planning maps, she said.
“You do not have to be Native to understand that the destruction of Mother Earth for profit is suicide,” she said. “We have to ask ourselves, what are we leaving behind for our children? And our children’s children? Seven generations from now, what will be left?”
Attendee Sam Kruyer ’19 said he was grateful to the organizations who organized the teach-in. He said he believes the nation should address tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
Kruyer added that in addition to tribal rights, standing against the pipeline is a matter of treating fellow human beings with respect.
Chase Warren ’20, who left his home town in Standing Rock to attend Yale this year, said he attended protests concerning the pipeline before packing for college.
“It was really tough knowing I had to leave, but by getting my education here I can help my home later on in the future,” Warren said. “It’s been difficult to adjust to life here knowing what is going on at home.”
The organizations decided to host the teach-in in part in response to sparse media coverage of the protests, according to Katie McCleary, Little Shell Chippewa-Cree, ’18, president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale.
She added that the protests are part of a grassroots movement that Yale students and community members can become involved with.
At the end of the event, Yale students were encouraged to donate winter clothing for protesters to bins that will be located outside residential college dining halls in Calhoun, Timothy Dwight, Trumbull, and Silliman College from Oct. 2 to 8.