This fall semester, I had the great privilege to work with a group of independently organized students to show solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Though our project originally formed through the Graham Sustainability Institute’s undergraduate scholars program’s interdisciplinary courses, our team grew to incorporate a larger group of students from different backgrounds interested in raising awareness on UM’s campus about indigenous struggles and environmental injustices. Inspired by the No Dakota Access Pipeline Movement (#NODAPL) started by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, we wrote a zine publication about the effort to stop the construction of a fracking oil pipeline on the tribe’s sacred land in order to protect clean water access, cultural artifacts and ancient burial grounds. In the zine, we highlight the history of indigenous resistance to colonialism and environmental destruction, background on the movement, the timeline of events surrounding the DAPL, and ways for those in Ann Arbor to take action against the construction of the pipeline. When beginning our organizing against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at UM, we felt as though there weren’t many accessible resources for students and the broader UM and Ann Arbor communities to learn about the struggle at Standing Rock; therefore, we decided that collaboratively writing a zine on the issue was the most effective way to spread awareness on our campus as zines are easy to distribute and generally free of charge (to download a copy of our zine, visit our website.)
As recipients of the Barger Leadership Institute small grant award, our group held a zine release event to distribute our zines, fundraise money for the Standing Rock camps and water protectors, and showcase interviews that were collected at Standing Rock during our group’s fall break trip to the occupation. One of our main objectives at this event was to raise indigenous voices as this movement is only one piece in a longer, ongoing struggle for indigenous justice and, therefore, indigenous voices should be at the forefront of these movements. To do this, we had listening stations of the interviews collected at the Standing Rock camps to provide authentic voices from the movement at our event. Also, members of a group of indigenous drummers and singers called the Swamp Singers performed and shared the cultural importance of the No DAPL movement with attendees. Additionally, we created buttons, stamps, and patches with messages to support Standing Rock, access to clean water, and indigenous resistance. All of these items, along with our zines, were available on a donate as you’re able basis. Ultimately, we raised about $850 at our event, all of which was sent to the occupation. Through this event, we discovered how many people are interested in learning more about indigenous and environmental justice. Community members, parents, friends, and students from all over the university came to our event and picked up a zine, listened to the interviews, and engaged in conversations about the struggle at Standing Rock. It was also beautiful to see community members and students participating in intergenerational exchanges of knowledge through conversation; I was grateful that we provided a space for folks of different ages and backgrounds to teach and learn from one another about organizing and the ongoing struggle towards justice.
Although our event went well and we learned a lot about the logistics of putting the zine release together, we recognize that our organizing doesn’t stop here; rather, this event can be viewed as a jumping off point for more organizing around environmental and indigenous justice in our region. We plan to continue distributing our zines around campus and Ann Arbor and we’ve also created a website to share our zine, videos and interviews. We are still selling our merchandise from the zine release event and sending all funds to the Standing Rock occupation because the struggle still continues today – despite the denial of DAPL’s permit to drill, Energy Transfer Partners has announced they will ignore the order and continue drilling. We have held phone banking events to demand that all felony charges against the water protectors are dropped immediately and we plan to do more phone banking in the future. Lastly, we’ve discussed organizing against Line 5, another oil pipeline that runs under the straits of Mackinac in Michigan. Our group will be regrouping in January once the winter term begins and we will outline what we hope to accomplish for the upcoming semester.
We are so grateful to the BLI for funding our zine release event and the printing of our zines! Without the resources provided by Barger, we couldn’t have held our event and raised the funds we sent to the occupation at Standing Rock. For more information on the work we are doing or to purchase merchandise, email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit our website at michsolidaritynodapl.tumblr.com.