Protesters March To Preserve Indigenous Sovereignty, Environment


Ardyn Ford

Protestors gather in front of the Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake

Ardyn Ford, Associate Editor

Several hundred people gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake on Tuesday, November 15th bearing signs that read things like, “water is life,” and “people over profit.” As the crowd grew, a man stood up and began to speak of his ancestors and the things that have been taken from them in the past. He spoke of our responsibility towards the environment and the values that have been an integral part of the lives of indigenous peoples for centuries.

“United we stand,” He said. “To protect our land.”

The man handed the microphone to an older woman. She began to sing. Her voice was deep and sad, embellished by the beats of bongo drums in the background. She sang about Mother Nature, telling a story filled with both great destruction and great beauty. As she let out the final note, the crowd began moving. Down State Street they marched, stopping traffic and expressing their beliefs.

“Don’t be greedy, respect the treaty!” They chanted.

Cars honked and pedestrians filmed as the group made its way towards the City and County Building. People of all ages and backgrounds marched, but the group was led predominantly by Native Americans.  

“Water is life!” They yelled in unision. “We stand with Standing Rock!”

When they reached the City and County Building, they circled up outside.

“We have a lot of gratitude for the City Council for hearing our concerns,” A leader said. “We must be respectful, but we must also continue to add fuel to the flame. Please enter quietly on the east side.”

The group walked into the building, up several flights of stairs, and into a conference room where people were able to express their concerns regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is one of many events that have taken place in response to the pipeline.

The Dakota Access Pipeline Project proposes the construction of a 1,172 mile oil pipeline running from North Dakota to Illinois. Those in support claim that it will, “enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner.” Construction of the pipeline has already begun.

There has been a huge backlash towards this project from many environmentally aware people, but those most opposed are The Standing Rock Sioux. If the pipeline is completed, it would run through the Sioux reservation and pose a threat to their water supply and sacred cultural sites. The Sioux people claim that the government did not properly consult with them before beginning the construction and thus have infringed on the legal sovereignty of the tribe. This is a continuation of conflict that has existed for decades and raises issues of respect and entitlement.

Protests have been popping up all over the country and have had some success; the construction of the pipeline has halted for the time being. With all the pushback, it is difficult to say what the future holds, however this controversy has certainly played an important role in the push towards alternative energy resources.