On Wednesday and Thursday last week, youth from Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, and other tribes took action in Washington, DC, to encourage President Biden to “Build Back Fossil Free.” The youth and organizers took to the streets with singing, dancing, drumming and creative protest actions to exert pressure against the Dakota Access, Line 3, Mountain Valley, KXL and Line 5 pipelines.
On March 31 they took an over 300-foot-long snake to Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House. The snake represents the “Black Snake” of America’s oil dependence and the specific threat of the Enbridge Line 3 and the Dakota Access Pipelines to Indigenous communities and to clean water and the climate. Lakota youth then “counted coup” on the snake — eliminating it.
Indigenous youth also held a die-in in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to represent the lives lost due to environmental destruction and pipelines.
The youth called on President Biden to uphold his commitments to climate action, Indigenous rights, and environmental justice. In a broadcast Zoom call with actor and activist Mark Ruffalo about the event, one youth said, “I’m asking President Biden to stand with us on this one. He made a promise that he was going to build back better. I envision that he is going to live up to what he said when it comes to being a “Climate President” and taking those steps to build back better.”
Others in the conversation said, “What we want is assurance that not only our current generations, but our future generations are going to have clean water; and they’re going to have land that they can use; and that they’re going to have life, honestly. And a planet that they can continue to live on for generations even after that.”
In response to a question from Ruffalo about why, as young people, they thought it was so important to come to DC, one activist responded, “Because the youth are the future. They’re the ones that are going to have to live through this. It’s almost…fighting before the events are taking place, trying to secure a nice future for each other.”
On Thursday morning youth and organizers held a rally at the Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters building, amplifying the voices of 400,000 people across the country who signed a petition calling on the Corps to withdraw its permit approving of Line 3.
In the evening a light projection installation projected phrases onto the Army Corps of Engineers building, saying:
RESPECT US OR EXPECT US
SHUT DOWN DAPL
STOP LINE 3
RESPECT INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY EXECUTIVE ORDER NOW
Jade Begay (Diné and Tesuque Pueblo of New Mexico), Climate Justice Campaign Director for NDN Collective, narrated the installation with commentary on the reasons why organizers feel now is the time for the president to take action.
She said, “Yesterday, the President of the United States released the American Jobs Plan, which actually stated that it would deliver clean water to all Americans and I think it’s a really important step in completing that plan by shutting down this pipeline. So we’re just following up with what this administration is saying that they’ll do. And we’re applying that pressure and providing those clear next steps for how to do that thing! Like providing water to all Americans. As we can remember, the Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. It threatens the water to the Missouri River, which is water for so many Americans across the country.”
On April 1, Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective erected a tripod to block the street in front of the White House. “We are here to tell the Biden administration we do not want the Dakota Access Pipeline flowing under our rivers and to stop Enbridge’s Line 3. Water is not an accessory, it’s a necessity and giver of life,” said Cheyenne Rivers Grassroots Collective’s Danny Grassrope who was chained the tripod with a bike lock.
“We are here in solidarity from the Cheyenne River Sioux nation to tell Biden he needs to take immediate and bold action to shut down the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipelines as well as any other fossil fuel infrastructure that goes through Indigenous territories or around our territories.” said Tasina Sapa Win with Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective. “There needs to be Free, Informed and Prior Consent from Indigenous people prior to the extractive projects going through our lands.”