By Phil McLachlan
A group of motivated youth put their brains together for a unified cause; Fernie Stands with Standing Rock.
Residents and supporters from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation have been making a stand since the early spring, protesting the construction of a $3.7 billion pipeline that was proposed to transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil fields of western North Dakota to Illinois, eventually linking to other pipelines.
Many temporary jobs were promised, however a passage of travel through sacred Sioux land triggered the locals to stand up for their rights as occupants.
This has been an ongoing process since the winter before, when the federal government was not allowing the pipeline company to drill under the river to finish a critical section, one of the last pieces required to complete the project. The Army Corps of Engineers requested to hear the opinions of the Standing Rock Sioux, whose voices were soon heard across international news stations.
A large victory for the indigenous community came last Sunday, when the Army Corps announced that it would not approve the crossing of the pipeline under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Although this does not signify a complete halt to the project, it is a large step towards victory for these indigenous people.
Supporters for this cause have been gathering for months, and as the winter weathers have worsened, supplies are in heavy demand. This set into motion the actions of the local group, Fernie Stands with Standing Rock.
An invitation was sent out via social media, requesting any able and willing bodies to come together and plan a support group for the indigenous people effected by the North Dakota pipeline proposal.
21 year-old Dylan Cohen is one of the dedicated planners for the group.
“We’re trying to raise money, primarily, but also to demonstrate the Fernie capacity for climate justice.”
“My definition of climate justice would mean upholding environmental protection and sustainability for future generations, to make sure our grandchildren and our grandchildren’s grandchildren are prepared and have what they need to live.”
The group worked tirelessly on Saturday at Knox United Church to bake goods and design banners, providing a means of funding as well as a message of their cause. A bake sale followed this event the next day, and a successful bake sale at Save-on-Foods provided the group with $365.75. An early-stage idea for this funding was to purchase extra layers of clothing for the Sioux, but this decision is still in the works.
Zaliqa Rosli has been involved with the Fernie Stands with Standing Rock cause since the beginning, and believes it’s important for several reasons. She has also seen an incredible amount of support come from the Fernie community as she has continued to inform people of their cause.
Rosli has worked in Montreal as a photographer for climate activists, and some of the workshops she was involved in revolved around the subjects of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. For this group, Rosli has taken what she has learned and put it to good use, helping to educate the public as well as some members of the team.
“I think the reason why I really stand to do this, is to spread awareness,” said Rosli. “Not a lot of people think about this in the daily, not a lot of people know what’s going on in Standing Rock.
“What they’re doing in Standing Rock is not just for the environment, it’s also for indigenous freedom, and for their rights.”
Fernie Stands with Standing Rock hopes to collaborate with local indigenous leaders, to inform the surrounding communities about the realities of what is happening there, and what it means for Indigenous communities in Canada. No official date has been set for this gathering, as of yet.