#NoDAPL Protest Brings Community Together

Abigail Blonigen

“Mni Wiconi” means “water is life” in the language of the Sioux. For the past several months protesters have been gathering at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to stand up against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would cut through native land and potentially contaminate the main water supply of the indigenous people.

Nov. 15 marked the #NoDAPL day of action, with protests sprouting up outside of United States Army Corps all around the nation, including in the city of Duluth. Protesters came and went all day, with around 50 gathered by the end of the day.

They held posters saying things such as “Mni Wiconi,” “Water is life,” and “Kids can’t drink oil.” They chanted, marched, sang, and told stories of how and why halting this pipeline was important to them.

Scott Scotbol, concerned citizen and environmentalist, said, “I’m just very concerned about social justice and fossil fuels, and that we have to slow climate change.” He spoke of his desire to have a future for his children and grandchildren. “I want to respect also the Native Americans who are very concerned about their treaty rights and the safety of their water,” he added.

Many at the protest were of Indigenous descent, including Sheila Lamb, Associate Director of the All Nations Indigenous Center in Duluth.

“I’m here because I’m a water protector, and because as an Indigenous person, I believe with every part of my being that we need to stop not only the pipeline in North Dakota, but we need to protect our waters here in Minnesota and across the nation,” Lamb said.

Lamb has been out to the Standing Rock Reservation more times than she can remember. Though she primarily cooks and helps out with the camp, she said she and all of her family members have been on the front lines.

“My 19-year-old stepson was maced on the front lines,” she said. “We’ve all kind of done our front line stance and will continue to do so as long as necessary.”

Another protester who had been to the reservation was Theresa Patterson, Indigenous community member and activist. She described the atmosphere of the camp as “very peaceful and very spiritual. We were welcomed with open arms.”

The atmosphere of the protest was welcoming as well. There were people of all ages and all backgrounds who were getting to know each other while fighting for the same cause. One generous individual even donated pizza and snacks to the protesters.

Though everyone there agreed protesting the pipeline was a good way to start, they also recognized it was part of a much larger problem.

“We have to make very big systemic changes,” said Scotbol. “And we have to figure out where we can do it with small steps, but with bigger steps too. We have to work together as people, and not just as individuals.”