Where are you standing?

An Indigenous student’s perspective on Line 3, and Hamline’s stances during these turbulent times

SJ Welch, Guest Columnist

My feet pounded on the cold street below me. My heart is heavy with the anticipated grief of a taunted Mississippi River. My soul felt like it was weeping as it sang loudly, “the people gonna rise like water, we are gonna take this crisis down. I hear the voices of my great-granddaughters saying shut this pipeline down.”

 I am angry.

As a white-coded Native American woman coming from the Mdewakanton Lower Sioux Dakota Tribe here in Minnesota, I have mourned the continuation of a pipeline, known as Line 3, burying its way through Indigenous land and sacred earth. This pipeline carries tar sands oil, detrimental if spilled on Minnesota land, and is being placed by Enbridge, a company notorious for the largest inland oil spill. 

Additionally, it was signed into fruition as the first ever Missing and Murdered Indigenous task force report came out. This report found that pipeline and construction work creates a demand for sex trafficking that directly correlates with Indigenous women being trafficked into the sex industry at rates disproportional to other racial identities in the state of Minnesota.

 I am angry.

As an Indigenous woman, I have been taught that water is life. We come from the breaking of water, its presence determines our daily survival, and we will one day return to its life in the soil. The importance of respecting Tanka, or Creator, comes from within. As spirits inhabiting bodies, we have a role to play when it comes to creating a mutual, respectful relationship with the earth. I weep at the prospect of oil spilling into the headwaters of the Mississippi, a river that connects me with my ancestors. 

I am angry.

As a social activist, I have learned a crucial concept of social action: There are many things we fight for, but we will be held accountable for the things directly within our power to change. Therefore, as an Indigenous Hamline student, I’m struggling to accept the audacity of Hamline to call themselves diverse while actively silent on this issue.

 I am angry.

I’m sick of the endless emails about how “you stand with us.” I don’t want to open another one for as long as I live. As an Indigenous elder in my life says often, “it is not our job to hold white tears”.

Instead, I want a list. A list consisting of the ways Hamline plans to change for the better. A list acknowledging the stolen land of my ancestors that Hamline resides on today.

I am angry that I have to spend time marching through the streets trying to protect the creation that gives us life every day and give my money to an institution that cannot take the time to give a statement of land acknowledgment. I am angry that every atrocity this year has been met with yet another email from our president expressing empathy while refusing calls to change, such as Aramark.

So I leave you with a question I have yet to answer myself: Why would you need to tell me you stand with me, if you were already beside me?