Students and community members gathered in front of Silent Tree yesterday afternoon to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Organized by members of the Native American Student Association (NASA), the event was a part of a UC-wide action against the pipeline.
“I want to thank all of you for coming to this place, at this time,” said Stan Rodriguez, linguist, community elder and a member of the Santa Ysabel Band of the Iipay Nation.
“If the pipe breaks in the Missouri River, it’s going to contaminate the water supply,” Rodriguez said. “If we as an institution do not stand up for what is right, then we are co-signing.”
Burgundy Fletcher, Vice President of the Native American Student Alliance and one of the organizers, was happy to see students attend and support the action.
“We found out last year that the UC system invests, directly and indirectly, in the Dakota Access [Pipeline],” Fletcher said. The University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) currently holds bonds in Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, two companies involved in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Apart from criticizing the DAPL, Fletcher criticized the campus for not doing more to encourage outreach and retention for Native students.
“There are 120 Native students on this campus,” Fletcher said. “That’s less than .5%. It’s a travesty.”
After organizers and community members spoke, they handed the megaphone over to students who wanted to speak. Speakers were encouraged to relate their words back to the marginalization of Native Americans.
Hamoun Dolatshahi, one of the organizers for the recent protest against President Trump’s executive order on immigration, spoke in support of the action.
“All of our classes teach us, that, ‘If I was there, I would have done something,’” he said. “All it takes is to say, ‘I won’t stand by this.’”
Francisco Ferreyra, Environmental Sustainability Officer at the UC Student Association, helped organize the UC-wide action. The event was organized “In a direct response to the Trump administration memorandum that advised the Army Corps of Engineers to abandon the Environmental Impact Statement ordered by President Obama,” said Ferreyra.
Ferreyra expressed that actions would not stop until plans for finishing the pipeline are abandoned and the UC system divests fully from any DAPL-affiliated organizations.
“noDAPL and fossil fuel divestment actions will continue to escalate across the state until Richard Sherman, chair of the BoR Committee on Investments, and the rest of the Regent boardmembers, put people over profits and ceases all investments in the fossil fuel industry.”
Gabriel Schneider is the Editor-in-Chief of The Triton.