Standing together for our rights

By Dan Ramos

Dear returning St. Michael’s Students,

Since the election, activism has increased dramatically across the country. We’re seeing record numbers of people at events like the Women’s March, Science March, and the Climate Change March. Now is time for the St. Mike’s community to take a stand and be part of this change. Social movements are powered by people, and you can be those people.

Last summer I had volunteered on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota with MOVE. We became close with many of the Lakota people who lived on the reservation. I returned at the end of the summer when the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was starting to gain media attention. After speaking with some of the Lakota people on the reservation, I realized that the little I knew about the DAPL was not enough and that I was capable of doing more. One of the Lakota people spoke about standing in protest of the DAPL while knowing how at any moment that the police officers in front them might decide to shoot. Knowing that the Lakota people were risking their lives to fight for something they passionately believed in made me think about what I could do.

The pipeline is 1,172 miles long and runs through Bakken and the Three Forks areas. This pipeline runs through Native American land and sacred grounds. Beyond those offenses the pipeline will also further the use of fossil fuels and has also raised concerns about contamination of the drinking water of many of the Lakota people. During the construction of the DAPL, our government gassed and beat its own citizens. These were Native Americans who were peacefully protesting so that they could keep their own land.

I spoke to people I had met on the reservation and also tried to read any piece of news I could find. I reached out to other people on campus and talked to them about what we could do to make an impact. We were able to consistently show up to rallies and protests that supported the Native American people and the fight for their rights. On November 15, a group of us participated in a day of action to show solidarity with Native Americans at Standing Rock. Over 140 people gathered in Essex Junction outside the US Army Corps of Engineers and held up our signs in silence. We were able to send a clear message that we were supporting the Native Americans at Standing Rock. Our presence for just a few hours made a huge statement.

We also educated more people about what was happening with the DAPL. We contacted the Student Association and created a presentation on the DAPL for one of their SA meetings. Earlier this year the DAPL was completed. We may not have been able to stop the completion of the pipeline, but we were able to spread more knowledge about the struggles Native Americans were facing and how we could support them. It was important work.

As we’ve seen after this past election, we can’t take all our rights for granted. We will have to stand for our beliefs in order to make them a reality in our life. You need to see the opportunities you have and how to take them. So where do you start? Figure out what causes are important to you. Make yourself more aware of what needs to be done to support these causes. Be proactive in finding out how you can contribute. It does not require you to give up all your time and resources, but only requires that you are engaged and contribute where you can. Sign an online petition. Help provide transportation to a rally. Create an event or do a presentation to educate people. It’s not hard to do the small things that will lead to a larger change.

Dan Ramos ‘17 is the vice president of the Student Association