Community members show support for Standing Rock

Will Clark

Activists and community members came together Saturday at the Wildflower Church in South Austin to show solidarity with the people at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners plans to dig under the Missouri River to complete the pipeline but faces opposition. Protesters say the project damages Native American lands and endangers water sources for both the tribe and many other Americans.

The event in Austin featured a silent auction, music, yoga and a bake sale to raise money for the Oceti Sakowin Camp, where protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are preparing for the approaching North Dakota winter.

Event organizer Marika Alderink said she hopes people find ways to take action within their own community to support the people at Standing Rock.

“The tides have to turn everywhere,” Alderink said. “If the tides are going to turn up in North Dakota they have to turn all over the nation.”

Despite the protests, Kelcy Warren, CEO of ETP, told the Associated Press the company will continue construction. 

“There’s not another way. We’re building at that location,” Warren said.  

Alderink said about 400 people attended the event Saturday which began with a traditional Native American song from Matthew Davila, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The event raised over $4000, according to Alderink, but Davila encouraged participants to do more than just make a donation.

“Not only are they asking for donations, but take something away from it besides items or food or reflection,” Davila said. “Take knowing that you helped out something that’s as important as land, that’s as important as water.”

 Davila said he wanted to go back to Standing Rock, but his roots and family are in Austin. 

 “My sister, my mom, all our family, they’re all up in the front line when this all started,” Davila said. “There was a huge part of me that just wanted to drop everything and go back up, but for what? To risk getting arrested? How is that going to help?”

 Erin Walter, the intern minister at the Wildflower Church, said the church’s denomination has sent ministers to Standing Rock, but this specific church could not.

“It was very hard for me not to go,” Walter said. “My heart is there, and I think it’s important for us to remember that indigenous people are struggling here as well. [They] have needs here and need to be visible here.”

Walter said the church is committed to supporting not only the indigenous movements related to Standing Rock, but also climate action, citing another ETP pipeline project in West Texas.

Event organizer Robin Heart Shepperd said she hopes the event will bring more attention to the issues at Standing Rock.

“We’re hoping to alert people to do more,” Shepperd said. “We need people to go up there and be with them. Now that the harsh winter is coming on, we’re hoping to stimulate more people to go up there and support them.”