Chants filled the mezzanine of the Hall building Thursday afternoon as students shouted “Water is life, water is life, water is life!” to spread awareness about the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
A few dozen of the students who gathered on Nov. 10 were part of a First Peoples studies elective class, titled “Haudenosaunee Peoples,” that had decided to use their class time to spread awareness about the negative impacts of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which if installed, would run approximately 1,886 kilometres, expanding a new pipeline from a North Dakota oil refinery to Patoka, Illinois and carry an estimated 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
Donna Goodleaf, the instructor of the elective class and a First Peoples studies professor, said the mobilization was a collaboration between her elective class and Concordia’s Indigenous Student Association. She said the purpose was “to support our brothers and sisters in North Dakota.”
Goodleaf said DAPL does not respect Indigenous land rights, as the pipeline would run through sacred Indigenous territory. She also discussed the violation of human rights towards protestors at Standing Rock—stating that they were being attacked with rubber bullets and tear gassed.
“[Due to] what’s happening over there, we’re going to be affected [here],” said Goodleaf. She said pipelines are already directly affecting communities worldwide, referencing the Energy East Pipeline. However, she said Canadians are currently being distracted by what is happening in North Dakota. Goodleaf said we have a responsibility to be educated on all pipeline projects imposed in the U.S. and in Canada, and to spread awareness about what is happening inside and outside of our communities when it comes to pipelines.
“There are science communities sending probes to Mars, a planet that’s 55 million kilometres away from Earth—and here we’re not solving any problems on our own planet,” said Nicolas Athanassiou, a Concordia environmental geography student in the class. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“We are still using fossil fuel technology—this technology is over 150 years old,” said Athanassiou.
“Water is life for everyone. People in North Dakota, they’re not only fighting for themselves, they’re fighting for everyone,” said Athanassiou. “The vast majority of people don’t see that—they’re too busy with their jobs.”
Kayla Ali-Joseph, a student in First Peoples studies, said although she is not an Indigenous person, as a black woman she feels she has a connection to the marginalized group of Indigenous people affected by this issue.
There are many mobilizations against the DAPL in the city of Montreal, said Tina Petawabano, a member of the Cree community and a student at Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs, minoring in First Peoples studies. On Monday, a mobilization took place downtown as community members gathered in Victoria Square to speak and march in solidarity with activists in Standing Rock and to denounce banks TD, RBC and Scotiabank from their investments in the DAPL. Another protest in opposition of the DAPL will take place this Sunday, Nov. 13, in Phillips Square at 1 p.m.
“I think it’s important to spread the word and also to encourage everyone to be aware,” said Petawabano. She urges people to read and educate themselves on the pipeline issue.
Students involved in the mobilization in the Hall building initiative handed out pamphlets with information about the pipeline and how to help aid supporters at Standing Rock. Suggestions included spreading awareness in public or private conversations or through social media, and sending donations to the people at Standing Rock—to the address of Sacred Stone Camp, P.O. Box 1011, Fort Yates, N.D. 58538.