GVSU to host Standing Rock awareness event

By Karina Lloyd | 11/13/17 12:13am


Despite the biting cold wind blasting on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation last winter, the fire in the hearts of the hundreds of Native Americans burned bright as they joined together for months in protest against what they perceived to be the invasion of their land and the potential contamination of clean water as a result of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Though they braved the harsh winter, water cannons and rubber bullets, the fight against the pipeline construction still continues today. 

As part of Grand Valley State University’s celebration of Native American Heritage Month, Levi Rickert (Potawatomi), founder of Native News Online and member of the Native American Advisory Board at GVSU, will hold a public discussion to build awareness of the events that transpired at Standing Rock and the issues the Native American community and Michiganders face as a result of pipeline construction. The event will be held Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Room 2266.

Rickert was one of the hundreds of Native Americans who took part in the Standing Rock protests. He will be drawing on the knowledge he gained during the protests and the background he has from writing about Native-American-based issues to present at the event, "Standing Rock: The Largest Gathering of American Indians in 100 Years Explored by Levi Rickert.” 

The talk will allow GVSU students and the general public to hear Rickert’s insight on why Standing Rock became the largest gathering of American Indians in over 100 years and the effects it will have on today’s generation of American Indians.

“Levi is going to talk about what the event was, how it got started,” said Tonisha Begay, program assistant in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, who is working on the Standing Rock event. “I think he’ll give an update on what’s happened since and just bring awareness to the issues of Native people and sovereignty.”

Though one of the purposes of the discussion is to build awareness, Begay said the topic is already something on the minds of Native students at GVSU, especially with the local issue of “Line Five." Line Five is a pipeline, owned by the Canadian company Enbridge Inc., that lies at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.

“With a lot of the students that I work with who are Native, this is something they're thinking about,” Begay said. “There is just so much to unpack (about) Standing Rock, and even now (with) Line 5 in Michigan. ... This issue is really important to Native students and to the Native community. It’s a part of our lives. 

"This land is something we care about, and we are trying to protect it, and so it’s not just something we can think about one day and forget about the next.” 

There is a lot of interest in the event, especially from the GVSU Native American Student Association, a student organization here on campus that celebrates and explores Native American heritage through meetings and events.

Ashley Jacobs, president of NASA, is particularly excited about the fact that Rickert is a member of the GVSU community. The fact that he is on campus will allow for the conversation between Rickert and the students to continue after the discussion. 

“He’s not someone we’re (bringing) in from states and states away; he’s right here at Grand Valley,” Jacobs said. “I can go and talk to him and shoot him an email after the event to get more information after the event."

Jacobs encourages all students, including non-Natives, to attend.

“I think everyone should attend, even though Standing Rock was last winter," she said. "That’s when Standing Rock was going down, and we were doing stuff here on campus to get awareness last winter, this still is a problem (today). Water rights and what they’re doing to the water is still going on it’s not over. 

"It’s really good that this issue is still being brought up because they didn’t change anything. They’re still building the pipeline.”  

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