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December 21, 2016
by Celina Dietzel '17
A group of Knox students, led by Director of Spiritual Life Lisa Seiwert, traveled to Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota to protest the Dakota Area Pipeline (DAPL) in November.
Members of the Knox group stationed themselves in the Oceti Sakowin camp, joined by Sioux people, religious leaders, and people of all backgrounds. The Knox group brought along funds and supplies they had collected at Knox, such as water bottles and packaged food items, to provide to the camp members.
The Oceti Sakowin camp has been active since August, peacefully protesting DAPL. In fall 2016, a call to action from a group of religious leaders prompted Seiwert and other activists across the country to join members of the camp in protest.
Seiwert sent an e-mail to a small group of Knox students on a Friday to gauge interest in the trip, and by the following Wednesday morning, 16 students were packed and ready to go.
"I didn't realize we'd be able to mobilize that quickly ... it was a fantastic group." Seiwert said.
Katerina Sasieta '20, who went on the trip, is no stranger to activism. She began getting involved in fighting climate change last year and was surprised to run into a few activist friends at Standing Rock.
"It showed the beauty of solidarity and gave me a lot of hope for the world in general. There are so many people with valuable experiences that tend to stick to just their areas of expertise. Right now though, we need to work together, and that is happening at Standing Rock right now," she said.
Upon arrival, members of the group attended a nonviolence training session that discussed their role as allies.
"It was a great time to practice stepping up and stepping back. I think most of us were united in that desire," Sasieta said.
On the second day, students explored and volunteered where they could in the camp, meeting new people and making friends along the way.
For some of the group members, their favorite moment was on the second day when they woke up early to watch the sunrise over the North Dakota plains.
For Seiwert, it was a prime moment of reflection on the purpose of the trip.
"It was thinking about the way things are bigger than us," she said.
On the last day, the group traveled to Standing Bull College and met with student government leaders who shared their personal stories and perspective on Standing Rock. Seiwert's hope is that the connections made will help Knox students stay informed in ways they can continue to support Standing Rock in the future.
The social justice climate is part of what drew Seiwert to Knox, and she plans to continue helping students take action.
Sasieta is ready to take action too.
"I'm new to Knox, so I'm still exploring ways that I can work toward global justice on campus," she said.
The DAPL was recently denied access to drilling beneath the Missouri River by the Army Corps of Engineers.
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