Students provide service at Standing Rock

Students Standing Rock 2
Students beginning their day of service at the Standing Rock campsite


This past January, UW-Parkside students and faculty member Heather Kind-Keppel visited and assisted members of the Sioux tribe within the Standing Rock reservation. Many of the members of the Sioux tribe across North and South Dakota are demonstrating their opposition to the implementation of Energy Transfer Partners’ $3.8 billion pipeline crossing through North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

The sides of the debate

The debate surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is within the land and water it crosses near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in the Dakotas. The pipeline would be buried underground and run under the Missouri River, which is the main source of fresh water for the Standing Rock Sioux tribes. In addition to ecological concerns, many of the Sioux in the area have spoken out against destruction of sacred ground, including burial sites being disturbed by the construction of the pipeline.    

In opposition to the claims made by the Sioux tribe and Eco activists against DAPL, the funding company Energy Transfer Partners has published a website titled “DAPL Pipeline Facts.” On the website a diagram of the planned path of the pipeline is compared to existing pipelines and Power lines crossing Lake Oahe. Included on the webpage is another diagram showing alleged borders of the Standing Rock reservation and the proposed path of DAPL pipeline.  

Course on DAPL

This past Winterim term, thirteen Political students attended a course taught by Heather Kind-Keppel. The course was centered on issues being debated on the DAPL and those standing against it. Along with the course Kind-Keppel had several professionals, including lawyers, professors, students and media experts come to the class and speak on behalf of their personal visits to Standing Rock.

Students visit Standing Rock

The students who took the course made the trip to the location where most of the demonstrations against DAPL took place. The purpose of the students’ trip was not to protest but rather to provide support and meaningful service to the people of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The students helped by cleaning rummage from the camp sites used by protestors and by completing other activities unable to be attended to by the Sioux people. Some of the most impactful moments they took part in were visiting with members and hearing stories from Sioux and others who have spent a long time at the protesting grounds.

The impact on students

The trip and course on DAPL was designed to provide students with a very broad and many sided perspective on the situation in Standing Rock. Guests brought to speak to class and the trip to Standing Rock itself provided students with an experience not regularly available to the public. Through these activities, Kind-Keppel explains that “we all wanted to be well informed individuals who were open to learning and listening to many different opinions in regards to the entire socio-political situation surrounding the DAPL.”

Through the support of the Political Science department and members of the Sioux tribe, the trip and this valuable learning experience were made possible for the students. One of the most impactful moments came after the trip with students spreading the word of the true implications that come along with this trip and the debate around DAPL. Educating peers and others about their experiences highlighted the true impact this trip and course had on the students.


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