Kentucky Stands with Standing Rock

Protestors display signs at Kentucky Stands with Standing Rock in Lexington, Ky., on Friday, January 27, 2017. Hundreds of protestors gathered in front of the Fayette County Circuit Court to protest in solidarity with Native American tribes affected by construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Photo by Joshua Qualls | Staff

A few hundred people showed up to the Fayette County Court House to hear speakers spread the word about the importance of standing in solidarity with those in the Dakotas Friday evening.

The event was created on a Facebook page on Tuesday, January 24, shortly after President Donald Trump signed an executive order allowing for the advancement of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, a controversial topic that has been making the waves in the news since protests started picking up mid-year in 2016.

Psera Newman, the creator of the event, said she never thought that it would receive so much attention. With the help of Landra Lewis, the emcee for the night, she introduced several Indigenous speakers and musicians, as well as thanking everyone for their support on such short notice.

Amongst those speaking was Rachel Thunder Landham, a graduate student studying forest genetics at the University of Kentucky, whose brother was at Standing Rock. She recounted how she watched as protectors of the water were blasted with cold water in freezing temperatures and attacked by dogs. Thunder said in her call to action that regardless of sex, social status and race, we must gather as one. 

“Today I do not only watch and listen, today I will not be quiet and today, all of our voices will be heard,” Thunder said over the sounds of cheers and applause. 

Several social justice groups, such as the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition, and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, were there as well, passing out information about how one can get involved after the event was over. “I’m going to stay involved as far as staying informed, reading constantly try to listen to the voices that need to be heard the most,” Emily Handy, a graduate student studying English at UK, said.

The pipelines are being built to transfer as many as 570,000 barrels of crude oil every day from North Dakota to Illinois, coming what others believe to be too close to the sacred burial ground. 

People involved in the movement believe that the pipelines could contribute to climate change, as well as the possibility of an oil spill. The pipelines would be placed under the Missouri River, which serves as a primary source of drinking water for nearly 10,000 people in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Several different interest groups and Native American tribes have become increasingly involved in the movement to stop the construction of the pipelines.

Handy doesn’t believe this will be the end of movements like this one. “I mean people are just frustrated and angry and they just want to make sure the people in power know it,” Handy said.