Student groups at the University of Southern California stood in solidarity on Thursday to speak out against the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline's construction was temporarily blocked by the federal government earlier this month after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmentalist groups claimed the channel would damage the environment and tribal land.
The building of the DAPL has been a matter of public concern in the Midwest and all over the United States, including here at USC. The Native American Student Union and the Young Democratic Socialists have partnered up for an on-campus solidarity demonstration in disapproval of the DAPL.
The pipeline is a proposed 1,172-mile-long infrastructure that would enable domestic produced crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets, according to the Dakota Access website. Dakota Access is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil and says the pipeline is the safest, most cost-effective and environmentally responsible way to move crude oil.
But some students at USC don't agree with their proposal.
"USC students should care about the Dakota Access Pipeline because it affects our environment and it affects drinking water and drinking water is a human right that everybody should have regardless of their race, culture, or ethnicity," said Native American Student Union Vice President, Nys Trejo. Trejo believes that digging the pipeline under the Missouri River could cause potential leaks that would contaminate the tribe's drinking water supply.
Young Democratic Socialist Executive Board Member Ben Hiller doesn't come from a Native American background, but he attended the demonstration to show solidarity with the student union and the indigenous people.
"The second [reason I'm here] is the indigenous struggle that's been going on for over five centuries now and continues today," said Hiller. "When it comes to ensuring that poverty is erased, … we find that it's absolutely essential that we turn out today to show solidarity with the indigenous people and their struggle."
In November 2015, President Obama vetoed a legislation that proposed the construction of a similar controversial project — the Keystone XL pipeline. Obama cited environmental and climate change concerns in his veto.
On Sept. 9, the Obama administration revoked authorization of the DAPL on federally controlled lands and asked the owners of the pipeline to halt construction. Native American groups and climate activists across the country have continued their fight against any future building of the infrastructure.
The Native American Student Union is fundraising money to send to the Standing Rock Reservation that would help with legal fees to fight against oil companies and protect land, water, and human rights.