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Oregonians of Color Spend Thanksgiving Opposing Dakota Access Pipeline

A group of 12 leaders of color drove three carloads of supplies to activists who oppose the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

November 24, 2016

While many Oregonians spent the Thanksgiving holiday eating large meals with their families, some drove hundreds of miles to feed the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters in North Dakota.

A group of 12 leaders of color, led by Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon Executive Director Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, drove three carloads of supplies to activists who oppose the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

Tribal members there say the fossil fuel project threatens to contaminate the local water supply, and have demonstrated for months against it.

In recent days, activists in North Dakota have faced increased aggression from Morton County law enforcement, who turned water cannons on demonstrators this week in sub-freezing temperatures. Medics with the group told the media that more than 160 people suffered hypothermia after being sprayed.

The family of another activist said she may lose her arm after being hit by a concussion grenade thrown by police. Law enforcement dispute the injury, and say it was caused by protester actions.

The increased violence motivated the Oregon group to hit the road.

“We have been collectively organizing for us to go,” said state Rep.-elect Diego Hernandez of East Portland. “And it just became even more relevant when the folks at Standing Rock faced violence this Sunday.”

“The disproportionate corporate security and militarized police actions reveal a dangerous pattern in the United States of using state sponsored violence to enrich corporations and accelerate damaging climate change,” Santos-Lyons told OPB via email. 

Santos-Lyons said he believes public law enforcement shouldn't prioritize protecting "corporate interests" over the people.

“This undermines our economy and our democracy,” he said.

The Oregonians who traveled to North Dakota say they're bringing food and supplies for the activists, including a solar panel.

They're also using the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to bring extra attention to the cause.

“A lot of American history doesn’t really teach us the true happenings of what occurred and even why Thanksgiving was celebrated,” said Hernandez. “It’s kind of ironic that till this day indigenous communities are still fighting and struggling for their land rights and their water rights.”

Hernandez called the Standing Rock protests “one battle amongst many where indigenous folks have had enough of colonialism.”

Meanwhile in Portland, dozens of people gathered at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Thursday morning to show their support for activists in North Dakota.



“We’ve got to make sure that we’re loud and that we stand in solidarity with them,” Hernandez told OPB.


The protesters drew connections between the Standing Rock Sioux's struggle with the Army Corps of Engineers over the Dakota Access Pipeline and local conflict over the management of the Columbia River hydro power dams.

Amelia Templeton