Bethel was one of many places where there were rallies and vigils in support of members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, according to a story by KYUK Public Media.
The tribe fears that a leak from the pipeline could have devastating effects on their sacred lands and their water supply in North Dakota. There have been arrests and continuing efforts to remove the protesters, and satellite rallies have been held around the country in support.
Alaska Natives and non-natives alike held a rally to support the Standing Rock protest on Saturday while cars passing by honked in support. Bethel resident Tim Andrews, who helped organize the rally at Watson’s Corner in Bethel, said that one purpose of the rally was to show the importance of clean water for all life.
“Every bit of life, from insects to humans and animals,” Andrew said. “And that’s what we’re campaigning for: it’s for clean water, and also to stand with our Sioux brothers and sisters.”
The other organizer of the rally, Diane McEachern, who is also from Bethel, said this isn’t only to support the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, but that it also reflects local concerns.
“This is our first-time kind of gathering together in a support rally for what’s happening down there, but I think there’s relationships to some of the mining operations that happened in Alaska and concerns about the environment and what destruction those can cause,” McEachern said.
Organizers spread the word on social media and some volunteers made signs in preparation for the rally. One of the signs in the protest said, “Oil and Gold Belongs in the Ground.”
Over the recent weeks, tensions have been boiling over at the Standing Rock protest, with increased violence against protesters from law enforcement.
“Our brothers and sisters in North Dakota, they’re being shot with rubber bullets, and also with mace, and sound cannons and lights, making it hard for them to sleep at night,” Andrew said. “They cut off the highway access to try to starve them, but food is getting through, they’re doing their ceremonies, they’re doing their prayers.”
And Andrew said the issue is drawing attention internationally.
“Water protection is being recognized worldwide,” he said. “There’s Mongolians, there’s Maori from New Zealand that are recognizing that water is life. We need clean water. We also need to stand with our indigenous brothers and sisters as well.”
Numbering in the dozens, the protesters held their rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.