Native American students protest Dakota Access Pipeline

Samantha Reyes (left), Kyra Antone (right) stand with other students on Todd Hall steps in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Several members of the WSU/Pullman Native American community performed jingle dances as part of their demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline on Tuesday and last Friday on the Glenn Terrell Friendship Mall.

Sequoia Dance, a WSU graduate, said the demonstrations were an effort to raise awareness of events surrounding the pipeline which Native American tribes across the country have been protesting in recent weeks.

Dance lives in Pullman and came back to campus to participate in the demonstrations. She dressed in traditional Native American attire as she jingle danced on the steps of Todd Hall.

“We’re just coming out in a peaceful way,” Dance said. “Jingle dancing is a healing dance, and so we were all asked to jingle dance today, in support of the water for healing the people that have been hurt by dogs.”

The proposed oil pipeline will stretch across various states, starting in North Dakota at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

MyKel Johnson, a sophomore business major, is currently the Miss Pah-Loots-Puu for the 2016-2017 academic year and hopes to both engage people with Native American culture and inform them of further ways they can get involved. She said students can bring donations to the WSU Native American Student Center as part of care packages for protestors in North Dakota.

“A lot of people don’t know what the Dakota Access Pipeline is, or what its purpose is, or what it was built on,” Johnson said.

During the Tuesday demonstration, several students stopped on the mall to film, take photos and ask questions. Many more simply watched as they continued on their way to and from class.

Ullyses Ramirez, a freshman education major, sympathized with the demonstrators and the treatment Native Americans received in the past. Ramirez said the other topics on social media drowned out the issue.

“(Native Americans) are treated worse as it is, sent out of their homes,” Ramirez said. “Now, their water is being taken away.”

Dance said Native Americans aren’t the only ones affected by the pipeline.

“As soon as it bursts, it will affect everyone in the Missouri River,” Dance said. “Native Americans across the country have gone to North Dakota to protest the pipeline, and with that has come a lot of violence from various Dakota Access Pipeline supporters.”

“There was a court ruling that they could continue on construction,” she said, “and it’s hurtful to the people that live there because sacred lands and burial grounds have been destroyed.”

Dance said the racism directed toward Native Americans shows the ignorance some people have about the issue.

“It’s going to affect everybody, it’s just starting on native land,” Dance said. “It’s not about if, it’s about when.”

The demonstrators included members of several Native American organizations, which Dance said make up a small but tight-knit community that actively strives for more visibility on campus.

“History is being made,” Dance said. “Tribes that have been feuding for years are banning together for this issue. There is peace coming to our nation because of things that have been outside of our nation.”

“As a people we are very strong, but we are less than one percent of the university,” she said. “It was great to see people that were interested asking questions. It’s a good step to get this out, as young people are the voices of now.”