Members of Students Organized for Change and the American Indian Center gathered around the hill near the Atwood Mall to show solidarity and raise money for the Dakota and Sioux tribes fighting to ban the pipeline that would go through their reservations in the Dakotas.
Students came and donated money as they walked by while painting a streak of blue on a sign, showing their support for clean water.
“We’re having people express their solidarity against the Dakota Access Pipeline by putting an expression of paint on the canvas,” Maddie Wegener, Co-chair of the Students Organize for Change said. “When we’re done it will say, “Water Is Life” – one of the Standing Rock Tribe’s sentiments.
There were signs scattered throughout the grassy lawn with different facts about tribes in Minnesota, lent to the organization from the American Indian Center on campus.
Rose Hegerle, a member of Students Organized for Change, says that the Dakota Pipeline isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s also environmental racism.
“The pipeline was originally routed to be near Bismarck, which is one of the whitest areas in North Dakota, and after they expressed concern about it damaging their drinking water it was re-routed to affect the Standing Rock tribe instead,” Hegerle said.
Jim Knutson-Kolodezine, Director for the American Indian Center at St. Cloud State University, who was supporting Students Organized for Change said that this should be everyone’s problem, not just the Standing Rock Tribe, but for anyone who wants clean drinking water.
“If that pipeline breaks, it’s not just going to affect their water, it’s going to affect yours too. It’s a matter of cultural values; you can’t drink oil, but you need clean water.”
Along with environmental concerns, the pipeline brings up an uneasy feeling with being only a half mile away from the reservation, impeding of sacred burial lands and other areas that American Indians have sovereignty with.
Molly Lou Pintok, a graduate student in the geography department at SCSU is bemused as to why the issue has not been brought up in the recent presidential debates.
“The issue is more important to me than emails or scandals, yet it is not necessarily weighing in on the main debate floor,” Pintok said.
Pintok also shared how she feels the matter is two-fold. “It is an issue of the centuries’ long injustice of Natives that is somehow, and it disgusts me that this is true, still an issue in modern democracy,” she said.
“Secondly, this is an environmental issue that touches on water and climate change; things that will affect every man, woman or child alike,” said Pintok. “It will affect the plants, the landforms and the ecology of the area.”
A donation box in Atwood will be available until the end of October to collect non-perishable food items, hygiene products and school supplies for students whose parents or themselves are protesting. The American Indian Center will be bringing those donations up to the supporters at the end of the month.
Jessie Wade and Kyle Fahrmann contributed to this story.