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Aggies join movement to stand with Standing Rock Sioux

By Pono Suganuma

Aggies for Standing Rock, a group of Utah State University students and local community members, formed this month to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The tribe has raised concerns to federal courts, media and the White House, asserting the pipeline would not only destroy culturally, historically and religiously significant sites, but also endanger the tribe’s environmental resources and economic well-being. The purpose of the 1,168-mile pipeline is to transport around 470,000 gallons of crude oil a day from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to its final destination in Illinois.

The founder of the Aggies for Standing Rock group, Angela Enno Gray, is concerned about the negative effects the pipeline will have on the environment.

“I'm passionate about it,” she said, “because I know our natural resources are not infinite, and what we do to our Mother Earth will also impact us and all life.”

Gray, who is a graduate student and a former multicultural program coordinator for the Access and Diversity Center at USU, said she is worried the pipeline will contaminate the water supplies of the tribe and nearby communities.

“Water is what gives us life,” Gray said. “If we continue to lay pipelines in the ground, they will continue to leak and break and corrode, destroying our water supplies.”

Since the group’s inception on Sept. 4, its members have held daily prayer and planning meetings throughout the school week. Nahomi Jimenez, a sophomore global communications student at the university, is hoping to affect positive change through various methods including social media.

“It’s so easy to see all these terrible things in the news, or to see something on social media and like the post or share it,” Jimenez said. “But it’s about direct action, and to be able to really be that impactful source.”

The group's Facebook page has seen steady growth since its inception, nearing 200 members as of this evening.

“It’s just really amazing to watch all these people who do have a passion and who want to do something about it,” she said. “We are giving them a purpose. And we are giving them a voice.”  

Michelle Bogdan-Holt, the director of the Access and Diversity Center at the university, compared the opposition efforts surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline to what she considers a much larger issue – oppressed people not having a voice.

“We are currently experiencing a time in culture, where one voice is drowning out everyone else’s voice,” Bogdan-Holt said.

USU students from across campus have become involved in the effort.

Those students hail from organizations including the Utah State University Student Association, Val S. Christensen Service Center, I Am That Girl, Blue Goes Green, Black Student Union and Native American Student Council.

“It is just awesome to see these people from all these different spectrums,” Jimenez said, “that are saying, ‘Okay maybe we aren’t Native American, but we stand with you because we know that this is important and it is important for people in general.’”

The group will be holding a drive from Tuesday through Friday to collect donations of clothes, camping gear, medical supplies, poster supplies and monetary donations, which will be sent to those at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

The Aggies for Standing Rock also will be joining the Utah Stands with Standing Rock activist organization for a peaceful protest and march at the Salt Lake City capitol on Saturday at 2 p.m. to raise awareness about the issue. 

Bogdan-Holt stressed the importance of peaceful protest and coming together to affect change.

“Y’all are the change makers,” she said, referring to university students across the state. “It’s going to take folks like USU students and other college students and other young folks to come together and use their voice to affect change.”