The controversial Dakota Access Pipeline has left many in an uproar screaming for justice and wondering if it will ever come. One person who's chosen to react with action is Sierra Asamoa-Tutu, a Native American wife, mother, and activist who has taken a stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protesting the project. As part of the Diné (Navajo) people, Sierra has been an active member of her community as a therapist at the American Indian Family Center in Minneapolis and advocate for Native American rights. Sierra's passion and fiery voice inspires us to find ways to get involved and figure out how we can teach our children about standing up for what we feel is right -- just as she did with her 3-year-old daughter, Delali.
Sierra shared with CafeMom the significance of her family's journey to Standing Rock in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, this September in order to lend support to the water protectors who have gathered in opposition to the project. Ever since plans for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline were announced in 2014, many members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been protesting the pipeline for both cultural and environmental reasons, as the pipeline is supposed to run 1,117 miles through four states and underneath the Missouri River near the Sacred Stone Camp.
Joined by her husband, Fidel Asamoa-Tutu, their 3-year-old daughter, Delali, and friends -- like Erin Pratt (she's in the last photo) from the Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light -- this mom says she was able to show her little girl (that's her below) that the best way to effect change is to lend your voice and get involved.
As a mother, when I look at my daughter, I want to be able to tell her that we did everything we could in the moment that it mattered. That we stood up to corporate greed and racial injustice so that she and her children could live beautiful lives with greater harmony among mankind. It warms my heart to hear my 3-year-old talk about her trip to Standing Rock and how much she enjoyed it .... I believe she could sense a different spirit in that place; a spirit of peace, love, and justice, which she will learn are the things that matter most.
Many, including Sierra, believe the pipeline violates the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty between Native Americans and the federal government that makes the First Nation people owners of the land that the Energy Transfer Partners LP reportedly acquired through eminent domain.
Not only will this project defile revered, sacred lands, but it also has potential to compromise both the environment and the reservation's drinking water as an estimated 570,000 million barrels of oil will travel through the conduit each day. Protesters want to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline's environmental ramifications that would result in emissions equivalent to that of roughly 21 million US vehicles on the climate.
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Sadly, the peaceful demonstration that Sierra once described as spirit-filled and full of warmth has been met with militarized law enforcement that advance water protectors with physical force -- and concussion grenades -- and continue to arrest hundreds on the front lines.
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Yet, there's still hope in the hearts of pipeline protesters, both near and far, who strongly feel their united voices will be heard.
Indigenous people are beginning to find that we have a strong voice, and that we have allies in the broader community who are also ready for wide-spread change in the face of global warming, resource depletion, and a troubled society.
The time has come to for us to put the hashtag #NoDAPL into action by letting those in favor of the pipeline know that we stand with Standing Rock and fellow supporters around the world -- so many supporters, in fact, that more than one million people took to Facebook to show their solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
President Obama recently said that "the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline in a way" -- but that doesn't mean victory for the water protectors just yet. Should you wish to get more involved, you can send monetary and physical donations to Sacred Stone Camp directly. You can also download a Standing Rock resource packet that breaks down camp culture and Oceti Sakowin Camp protocol if you wish to travel to Standing Rock.
United we stand. Divided we fall. #NoDAPL.
Images via Sierra Asamoa-Tutu