Raymond Lebeau, POCSC intern and SANAI co-chair, speaks to a circle of demonstrators outside of the College Nine multi-purpose room. Lebeau was one of the organizers for the event, which about 200 students attended. Photo by Jasper Lyons.

Video courtesy of Banana Slug News.

In tandem with a national day of action, about 200 students organized a peaceful demonstration Nov. 15 in Quarry Plaza to condemn the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and to show solidarity with those at Standing Rock Reservation.

“People from all spectrums are coming together for this,” said lead intern for the People of Color Sustainability Collective Aniela Quintanilla. “There are a lot of people who care and want to talk about this.”

Students from the Student Alliance of North American Indians (SANAI), the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC), the People of Color Sustainability Collective (POCSC) and the Undocumented Alliance helped facilitate the demonstration and campus march.

Photo by Jasper Lyons.
Yolanda Esquivel, a member of the White Mountain Pima Apache of Arizona, rallies attendees. Photo by Jasper Lyons.

The demonstration began in Quarry Plaza where participants engaged in prayer and words of support for those currently working to halt further construction of the pipeline. They then walked to Kerr Hall, stopping at residential colleges along the way.

“It’s also a way for college students, who are going to class and have extracurricular activities, who want to be at Standing Rock but can’t or don’t have the means to at this moment in time, to show our solidarity,” said POCSC intern and SANAI co-chair Raymond Lebeau.

The 1,172-mile long oil pipeline is slated to stretch from Illinois to North Dakota, would carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day underneath the Missouri River, just upstream from the Standing Rock reservation.

“This is an issue that really hits home with Native students,” Lebeau said. “It can be really hard to focus on your classes, to not want to just drop everything and leave.”

Geena Talley, intern with AIRC and demonstrator at Tuesday’s event, is a Native American student whose personal experiences with the effects of water pollution motivates her to fight against the construction of DAPL. Talley is a member of the Karuk tribe in Northern California, on the banks of the Klamath river.

“Where I’m from, we’re also battling four huge hydroelectric dams that caused a major fish kill in 2002,” Talley said. “When I think over 70,000 salmon washed up on the shore dead.”

Students march in support of those at Standing Rock. During their trek across the UCSC campus, demonstrators chanted “Mni Wiconi,” the Lakota words for “Water is life.” Photo by Jasper Lyons.

Although most students don’t have the opportunity to travel to North Dakota to physically stand in solidarity against the pipeline, Talley was offered the chance to travel to Standing Rock in mid-August.

“Because I know so well what’s going to happen, and the repercussions of what they’re doing, I knew that I had to go,” Talley said.

One morning, Talley learned that a friend from a nearby tribe was leaving for North Dakota that afternoon and there was one free seat left in the convoy.

“I packed up my stuff and two hours later, we were driving out,” Talley said.

The criticism of DAPL lies in part within the decision to reroute the pipeline through sacred Standing Rock Sioux lands after residents of nearby Bismarck, ND were fearful the pipeline could ultimately burst and contaminate their water supply.

“The people [of Bismarck], mostly white people, said ‘No, this is going to pollute our water and damage our health,’” Talley said. “So the next best thing is to run this through Reservation land because Native lands are expendable — and nobody is going to notice? Fuck that, we notice. And we’re not going to let it happen.”

The Sioux of Standing Rock said  they were not consulted and the construction of the pipeline not only desecrates their cultural heritage but  also endangers their access to drinkable water.

According to a letter from the Sierra Club to President Obama, the pipeline should have been subjected to more environmental review in accordance to the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

“We don’t want it to be forgotten that what’s happening at Standing Rock is an environmental issue. But, it’s really a Native issue,” said lead intern at POCSC Aniela Quintanilla. “And it’s something that Natives have been dealing with since the beginning.”

Those seeking to halt the construction of the pipeline have swelled in recent months. Several thousand, representing dozens of indigenous nations and allies have set up camp to oppose the pipeline.

“I felt guilty for not being there […] people from my tribe have been going for months and months,” Talley said. “But at the same time, being here and seeing on the news all my relatives there and people being shot with bean bags and kids being maced in the face by cops ­— I feel so torn.”

Talley said the camp had an atmosphere of familial connectivity and support, and is committed to being a peaceful and prayerful space. Organizers of Tuesday’s event attempted to emulate the same type of collectivity and prayerfulness.

Student organizer Raymond Lebeau said the demonstration illustrated UC Santa Cruz’s willingness to have a conversation about the issues surrounding DAPL and allowed students to come together and have a collective voice.

“Their quote at Standing Rock, ‘we are protectors not protesters,’ embodies [Tuesday’s action],” Lebeau said. “We are not protesting, we are just standing in solidarity with the protectors who are protecting the water.”

On Friday Nov. 18, the American Indian Resource Center is hosting Indigethanx, 5-7:30 p.m. at the Women’s Center.