LANSING, MICH. - Ceremonial drums and chants echoed from the Capitol lawn Saturday as hundreds amassed in a peaceful show of support for Native Americans protesting the Dakota Access pipeline.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are protesting the construction of a 1,170-mile pipeline that would carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to southern Illinois. Current plans call for the pipeline to cross sacred burial sites and pose a threat to the tribe's water supply, protesters say.
Aaron Payment, chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, pointed to the hundreds of people who amassed Saturday as a sign that Michigan cares about keeping water clean.
"We in Michigan understand the importance of protecting our natural resources," he said.
His tribe recently donated $10,000 to the Standing Rock tribe in support of their protest. Organizers were also collecting winter coats and other items to donate to protesters opposing the pipeline's construction.
The peaceful demonstration was punctuated by prayers and a ceremonial procession across the capitol grounds. Water also dampened the capitol steps as part of a ceremony restoring the water of the Great Lakes and beyond.
Emmy Scott, a Michigan State University College of Law student, decided to get involved after seeing videos of protesters in North Dakota being shot with rubber bullets and maced. Scott and her fellow members of the Native American Law Students Association have been collecting supplies to send to Standing Rock.
"It's not just a native issue," Scott said. "Clean water is a human right."
The proximity of the pipeline to water reserves is particularly concerning for Scott. A member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Scott said she's read about possible constitutional violations happening at Standing Rock, including roadblocks preventing people from reaching protesters and supplies being confiscated by law enforcement.
Michigan residents who travel to Standing Rock have a host tent courtesy of Regis Ferland and Amos Cloud. Ferland, who spoke during the event, is currently raising money on GoFundMe to purchase supplies for protesters, including medical supplies and cold weather apparel. Supports are also using the Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock Facebook page to keep up-to-date.
Industrial threats to water resources aren't limited to the Standing Rock pipeline, said Julie Dye. The Jackson resident and member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians traveled to Lansing Saturday in part because of the threats facing Michigan's fresh water. The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline, which runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac is particularly concerning for Dye because it is more than 60 years old.
"I support Standing Rock and I also want people to be aware of threats the Great Lakes face," she said.
Lansing State Journal