Students have been learning about the Transcontinental Railroad and how instrumental it was to "settling the west." They have learned about how devastating this was to Native Americans. In fact, they have learned about the genocide of Native Americans and read quotes from military leaders who wanted to exterminate them from these lands. We have been looking at contemporary issues facing Native Americans as well, especially the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a pipeline meant to
transport crude oil across their land and under a river they rely on for water. This pipeline was originally slated to be built elsewhere but the wealthier, non-Native American people who lived there rejected it because they believed it was unsafe. The pipeline was moved to Sioux lands.
Native Americans have been at the front lines protesting the pipeline and this issue has brought together more than 200 tribes. Recently, reporters and protestors have been attacked with dogs and pepper spray and arrested. Many women were unnecessarily strip searched. MCS students were rightfully outraged. On Tuesday, they called the White House and the Justice Department to register their protest against the DAPL, and to ask that the Justice Department look into the actions of the police in arresting peaceful protestors and journalists. This issue also intersects with climate change, something our students care about a lot.
The students were a little nervous to call the White House, but they were also very excited. Several students got through and conveyed their message clearly. Others were on hold until class ended. However, they asked that the numbers be put on Haiku so that they could call another time. In fact, several now have the White House in their contacts, which they are pretty excited about.
I did not make them call; I provided them with an opportunity to take action. A guest speaker from last year, Daniel Jose Older, told us that the terrible things in the world are not traumatic when we take action, only when we look on helplessly. Because learning about genocide and the current realities of Native Americans can be very upsetting, I thought giving them this opportunity to take action was important.