Recently, Jordan Owen, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and member of Carrboro class of 2015, had the opportunity to go with a group of students to the site of the North Dakota Access Pipeline project.
The project itself is a 1,200 mile pipeline being built from ND to Illinois, with the goal of transferring crude oil to the East coast. The project is currently on hold, however, because of ongoing protests from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies.
These “protectors” are occupying an area of the pipeline construction in ND, saying that the pipeline will pollute their water source, the Missouri River, and that it would go through the tribe’s sacred burial grounds.
Jordan Owen spoke to Mr. Cone’s class and shared her thoughts, and the Jagwire staff talked to her separately.
How did you get the opportunity to go [to Standing Rock]?
I’m a diversity inclusion facilitator at UW-Madison, and one of my fellow facil- itators is the American Indian Community Campus Liaison. She emailed the group and mentioned that there was a spot left in the car. I felt it was too important an opportunity for true education and activism to pass up.
What do you think you accomplished while you were at Standing Rock?
We talked to a lot of people. Because mainstream media hasn’t been there, there haven’t been a lot of individuals who have been interviewed and been able to share their stories, other than through their own social media. Us going there, [we were] able to ask people what it has been like, what they wanted to tell to the world and gave them a channel for that.
How has your point of view changed on activism and specifically this issue?
I tried to go into Standing Rock with a completely blank mind, absent of main- stream conceptions of who Natives are, which, of course, was not entirely possi- ble. Once there, it was easier to interact with people as individuals rather than as the group the white majority assigns them. As for activism, I don’t like the notion of wanting to “save the world” that I personally entered with. The culture of activism as a whole is problematic to me. It is now permissible for people to champion a cause for a short period on social media, neither taking the time to do back- ground research to understand the root causes nor committing to the long run.
Broken-down trucks cover the road at Standing Rock. Photo courtesy Jordan Owen