On Sept. 27, a group of Mills College students and staff gathered in the Solidarity Lounge for a time of reflection and dialogue on how students can be in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe as they fight to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
The DAPL is proposed to transport 450,000 barrels per day of highly volatile crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline will run directly upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation.
Members of indigenous groups from all over the world have been gathering in support at Sacred Stone Camp, a community established by Standing Rock community members. Private security forces have pepper sprayed and released attack dogs on the peaceful protesters, and many have been arrested.
Sophomore Savannah Marlow attended the dialogue to learn what she could do to help.
“I went to the meeting to figure out what solidarity would look like,” Marlow said. “I have heard that their water supply has been cut off, and [so] I think water would be a great place to start.”
Marlow feels connected to the issue because she has family members that are Cherokee, but feels that other students more closely connected should speak the most in the dialogue.
As for the next dialogue, for which the date is still undecided, Marlow hopes that there will be more time for Native Americans to speak.
“Two people who identified as Native American had time to speak, and I want it to serve as an atmosphere of alliance where people who aren’t Native American listen instead of speak,” Marlow said.
Alfredo Del Cid, the assistant director of The Center, planned the first meeting with Assistant Dean of Students Sabrina Kwist and Chaplain Dara Olandt. They decided to not define what solidarity would look like and left it up for the students to discuss.
“We want to make sure that we are inclusive when it comes to deciding on an action. I don’t know what it will look like, but I think there’s a lot of different opportunities,” Del Cid said. “A lot of this is happening really organically, and today was just the first step.”
Olandt wanted to make a space available for people to reflect, as well as get informed on the issue.
“I see this as an occasion to come together for meaningful and thoughtful conversation,” Olandt said. “It’s a good opportunity to talk about what solidarity can mean, and to reflect on intersectional movement-building for positive, social change.”
It is still unknown what will come out of these dialogues, but there is plenty of room for discussion and for all voices to be heard. Olandt hopes that these dialogues will help students form connections, unite and take action, and learn from each other.
“I hope people will continue to speak and share together, [build] a community through dialogue and action, honor the wisdom of experiences shared, apply critical social justice analysis, unite with larger efforts and come up with meaningful ways to impact social change,” Olandt said.