We Are All Related.

Tonight I had the great opportunity to attend an event on campus that presented information about the Dakota Access Pipeline.  This presentation was comprised of a panel of speakers, all of which had some connection to or involvement with the protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation.  Hearing the testimonials and spoken word of people who have been protesting at Standing Rock or have donated time, money, resources, energy, and language/communication to the Water Protectors, and to this cause was overwhelming and emotional.

If you haven’t seen my recent posts on Facebook and Twitter you probably don’t know how passionate I am about this particular issue.  I’ve never been much of an activist or a politically engaged and activated citizen, but recently I have felt that I must voice my concern and my support for the Water Protectors in Canon Ball, North Dakota.

The issue with the Dakota Access Pipeline hits really close to home for me.  Literally.  Geographically.  Physically.

No, I am serious, it hits home.

I recently moved to Vermillion, South Dakota.  Being from Northern Michigan, I didn’t know much about this side of the Midwest, but since coming to the Plains region I have found myself attempting to become part of this community.  I am trying to learn as much as I can about the area and become invested in it.  As “Michigan Proud” as I am, this is where I am living for the next two years.  Two years is a significant portion of my life, and I want this to be home while I am here.  In order for SoDak to feel like home, I must work hard to make it my home.  How am I doing this?  I am getting involved, exploring, learning about the state and about the Plains region of the United States.

Anywho, like I said, the Dakota Access Pipeline hits home.  The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,200 mile pipeline that will span across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, and will carry thousands of barrels of crude oil daily.  If constructed, it will travel beneath the Missouri River.  The Missouri River is the main source of water in the Plains region and is the main source of water for more than 10,ooo people living in this area.  I live in this area.  My friends live in this area.  My home is in this area.

Being from Michigan, the hardest part of moving to South Dakota is the fact that I have very little water near me.  I have never lived more than five minutes away from a body of clean water (a Great Lake) until I moved to Vermillion.  Here, the only water source near me is the Missouri River, and I am fortunate to live so close to it.

I love the water.  I have a deep and spiritual connection to water.  I feel most alive and awake and energized when I am in or around water.  I always have felt this way.  I have an amazing relationship with water.  I firmly believe “Water Is Life”.

If the Dakota Access Pipeline is constructed, and it is constructed beneath the Missouri River, my only clean water source runs the risk of contamination.  The main water source for over 10,000 people runs the risk of contamination.  The entire Plains region runs the risk of contamination, negative environmental impacts, and dangerous threats to our people.

I just moved to South Dakota and I am already this passionate about this issue.  I am already fueled with hatred toward this potential risk to the health of the life around me.  I feel this way, because I imagine this being constructed in Michigan, and running beneath one of the Great Lakes (cue Line 5).  I envision my precious and beloved Mother Superior and Lake Michigan being contaminated.  And then I think of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Missouri River.

No, I will never feel as strongly about the Missouri River as I do about a Great Lake.  I will never find it to be as clean, beautiful, or pristine as a Great Lake.  But for two years of life I will consider it to be home.  The main-only-water source near me.  Therefor, I find it so very important that I protect it and cherish it.  After all, “Water Is Life”.

I simply can’t imagine my life in South Dakota without the Missouri River.  I have already come to value it greatly.  I can only imagine how those who have spent their lives in the plains must feel about the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the risk that it poses to the Missouri River and the life that it provides in this region.

If constructed, the Dakota Access Pipeline will not only travel through four states, beneath the Missouri River, but also along the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  This may in fact pose the greatest threat of all to these people in particular.

I stand with Standing Rock because like them I value nature.  I value water.  I value the Earth.  I value life.  I believe that every thing has a living spirit and that we are all connected.  I believe we are all brothers and sisters and humans and we are not so different from one another as society makes us out to be.

As I have grown, developed, and become educated, I have realized that many of my values and beliefs align very closely with that of the values and beliefs of the many American Indian tribes in our country.  Their spiritual practices and rituals intrigue me.  Their relationship with nature, practice of environmental reciprocity, and worship and protection of the land is something that I seek.  I desperately wish that more people viewed the resources that the land provides us as loans instead of gifts.  I desperately wish that we lived in a world that practiced peace as the American Indians do.  I desperately wish that we could view each other as relatives instead of strangers and enemies.

One of the things that I love about living in Vermillion and attending the University of South Dakota is the emphasis that everyone here places on community.  Given the size of our city and campus, we must value community, or we would be nonexistent.  Part of USD’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement quotes Lakota Proverb in saying “Mitakuye Oyasin” which translates to “We are all related” in English.  The first time I read this, I fell in love with it.

I seek to live out this ancient Lakota Proverb in my daily life.  This is why I stand with Standing Rock.  This is why we must shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline before it is too late.  This is why I stand with the Black Lives Matter movement.  This is why I stand with Mother Earth.  This is why I believe in all Human Rights.  We are all related.

Sending peace, love, and positive vibes to all my brothers and sisters.

-Joel

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