Students throughout campus have been logging onto their Facebook accounts, not to post photos, but rather to “check in” at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Since Oct. 31, these updates and other statuses have been posted in support of No DAPL — an activist movement aiming to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from passing under the Missouri River. The proposed pipeline would extend 1,172 miles across North Dakota — including through land containing water resources and sacred burial land — and shuttle oil to refineries in Illinois. A viral post that began Monday wrote that Facebook users could check in at Standing Rock to throw off the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which — according to the message — was using the check-ins to identify protesters.
Though the sheriff’s department publicly denied the claim that day, the social media shares have brought attention to the No DAPL movement, said Chase Warren ’20, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
“Regardless, it’s a sign of support, and I appreciate that,” he said.
Mainstream media outlets also do not dedicate significant news coverage to Native American issues, explaining why many students only learned about it through social media, said Haylee Kushi ’18, a student leader in the Association of Native Americans at Yale. She added that in her seminar on indigenous religious history, every single student had reported becoming aware of the DAPL through social media.
For Katherine McCleary ’18, last year’s ANAAY president, the social media support finally brought necessary attention to the No DAPL movement. Since school began, ANAAY has been hosting events on campus, such as a Sept. 27 teach-in led by a partner at Pipestem Law about the pipeline and how it fit into historical trends. Two weeks later, Standing Rock Tribal Council member Frank White Bull spoke at an Ezra Stiles College Tea on Indigenous People’s Day to discuss the tribe’s economy and the pipeline’s potential effects on the community.
This week, the group also sent more than 300 pounds of clothing that it secured in its cold weather drive from bins outside of dining halls. With the Yale Student Environmental Coalition’s help, ANAAY also mailed books written by indigenous authors to the Defenders of the Water School, which is where indigenous instructors teach students of activists on the site, McCleary said.
She added that to support the protestors, students should also educate others about No DAPL. McCleary herself has written several articles for DOWN Magazine on No DAPL.
Kodi Alvord ’17, another leading member of ANAAY, added that Yalies should also consider donating to the protesters’ cause.
“I think it’s positive for the people who are on the ground there to log onto Facebook and see all these different people from all over the nation and all different backgrounds checking in and recognizing that fight,” Alvord said. “Although they can’t necessarily be there in person, they have them in their thoughts.”
Two students interviewed who had not known about the protests before this week said they would not have known about the protests if not for social media. News stories on Twitter about Mark Ruffalo and Shailene Woodley supporting the protesters introduced Francisco Torres Rojo ’18 to the pipeline.
He added that he has also noticed that many students on campus learned about and quickly supported the No DAPL cause on Facebook.
“I personally would support stopping them from building the pipeline through Native American land,” he said. “And I feel like the general student body would feel that way.”
If constructed as planned, the Dakota Access Pipeline would stretch 1,172 miles.