Early Native American experience brings cultural awareness


Siena Juhlin

I was born in Utah and raised there until age six when I moved to Missouri. Although I was only there for a short six years, I learned a lot. But the fact that I learned a lot isn’t important. It was the person who taught me that matters.
When I began preschool, my mom put me in a Montessori school owned by an elderly Native American woman. When I first started, I thought it was just a fun school run by an old hippy lady, but I soon began to learn that it was not just that. The “old hippy lady,” whom I only knew as Diane, soon became an amazing role model and helped me see the school as my second home.
Diane taught me everything about Native American life. I learned Native American songs and dances and important aspects of their culture. But, the most important thing she taught me was the history between Native Americans and white men. She told me all about the brutality that manipulative colonists brought and, although I was too young to completely understand, I grasped how unfair all of it was. I was sad and confused about how some Europeans could just arrive in the United States and take everything from such beautiful people. Now I know that all of this conflict has to do with power and greed.
When the Europeans started colonizing America, they took the land from the Native Americans. They killed most of them by spreading disease and creating wars, and in the end, they were more powerful than the Native Americans . They then moved the surviving ones against their will to the less important parts of the country that they didn’t want to colonize at the time. Now, there are small amounts of land, 326 reservations, that remain for these people. One of these Native American reservations lays in North Dakota, where white men are still trying to take the land that was promised to the Native Americans in Standing Rock.
Dakota Access, LLC is a company that is building a new underground crude oil pipeline designed to transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day. This pipeline is 1,172 miles long and will go through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. In North Dakota, this pipeline was supposed to go through Bismark, North Dakota which is 90 percent Caucasian. But when the people of Bismark decided that when this pipeline breaks, it would affect their water, they moved it to the land of the powerless Native people.
Hundreds of people are now protesting peacefully for the removal of this pipeline because if it malfunctions, it will ruin their water and environment. Native Americans are camping out, praying, dancing, singing, marching and carrying signs. In response to these peaceful actions, the police are reacting forcefully and carelessly. Police are shooting the protesters with incredibly powerful water cannons in freezing temperatures, which caused 17 people to be sent to the hospital. Police are hurting the people and their horses with rubber bullets and using tear gas and sound cannons to try to make them stop protecting their sacred land. All of which is happening on a Native American reservation and the Natives have every right to be there, protecting their water.
Not only are people traveling there to defend people’s rights, but some are signing petitions and sharing articles. Even celebrities such as Shailene Woodley are getting involved. Although all these things are occurring to stop the pipeline, the company refuses to stop construction. The police are continuing to forcefully try to stop these protests and many people have been put in jail for just defending their basic human rights to clean water just so they can make more money on oil.
What good is our constitution if people are unable to fight for justice and defend themselves peacefully? Some people may see protecting our integrit y as a small issue right now because it’s not affecting the whole country, but this could definitely turn into a problem for everyone who wants to question the actions of people in power. Not only are our rights in jeopardy, but also this pipeline will disrupt 209 bodies of water, and it will emit more greenhouse gases than 29 coal plants which is putting our environment in jeopardy as well. And in the end, most of this oil will be exported to Asia to make benefit these huge companies rather than the common good.
Before the colonists took over, Native American tribes were usually at war with each other. This is the first time in history that this many tribes have stood together, united, to not just protect their rights, but basic human rights. All these people are trying to do is protect their water by peacefully protesting, but since this company is going to make a huge amount of money off of this project, they violently refuse to give these people their basic rights.
It is important people are aware of this issue. Not many people are talking about this problem or are aware of it because it doesn’t directly affect them but it shows how easily our rights and our environment can be disregarded for money. Nothing about this is OK. Informing people is the best we can do right now other than protesting at Standing Rock. Donations can be made here.