Lisa Smith could have just bought a T-shirt to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Instead, she gathered some local friends, staged a fundraiser and sent nearly $1,000 to help sustain the prayer camp through winter.
“I personally care about drinking water,” said Smith, from Brown County. “And I think they have a legitimate concern simply because many pipelines have had leaks across this country, and fairly recently, too.”
The $3.7 billion pipeline being constructed across the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is expected to transport 470,000 barrels of domestic crude oil per day across four states, according to CNN.
The Native Americans living near Cannonball, North Dakota, have raised concerns about water contamination from the pipeline, as well as it restricting access to sacred sites.
“The Dakota Access threatens everything from farming and drinking water to entire ecosystems, wildlife and food sources surrounding the Missouri (River),” says the website for the Sacred Stone Camp, founded by tribal citizens of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation. The pipeline project represents a “threat to our health, our culture and our sovereignty,” it says.
“I’m also concerned that construction started without any negotiation with the tribe, and there were a couple of treaties that have been violated,” Smith said.
“And also, for me personally, it’s about native land being leased by the government to a corporation to dig for minerals, and I feel like they continue to be taken advantage of.”
Smith calls herself, local artist Ted Reeves and Bloomington resident Lisa Jacobs “allies” in this movement. They’re not Native Americans, but they stand with them.
At Standing Rock, the group of allies has grown to thousands since April. With no end to the protest in sight, donations are being gathered to support the camp through the harsh North Dakota winter.
On Nov. 5, the Brown County allies staged a fundraiser at the Village Green to raise awareness and money for the people at the Sacred Stone Camp, which Smith said is engaged in prayer.
From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in downtown Nashville, Lakota drummers sang prayers, children created art, visitors and locals wrote prayer notes to send to the camp, and at least 150 people stopped by to make a donation or learn about the cause.
One chair sat empty in remembrance of late Brown Countian Dick Ferrer, who was active in Lakota ceremonies and celebrated Native American culture through his art.
From donation jars at Brown County Weavery and the Totem Post, a silent auction of local artists’ work and other donations, the group raised about $1,100 in one day, and after expenses, had $960 to donate to the camp, Smith said.
“We have a beautiful community,” Smith said. “People cared about it and got involved and made it happen. We didn’t do any of this by ourselves.”
St. David’s Episcopal Church sponsored the group to get a permit for the event, Smith said. “That was really critical. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without their support.”
Smith said the group is working on another event for the spring which she hopes will involve Native American dancers from Asheville, North Carolina. She encouraged anyone who wants to help to get in touch with her.