Nearly 1000 Native American youth from the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe are seeking to raise US$100,000 to join month-long protests against the North Dakota Access Pipeline project.
Indigenous and environmental activists say the pipeline will ruin sacred burial grounds and pollute local water supplies — as well as transport oil that will contribute to global warming.
The youths are from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is among the poorest areas in the US.
“Lakota youth are determined to support their people, make an impact, and be part of the history that Native tribes are creating right now,” the group said via its Facebook page. “Many Oglala Lakota have already played a key part in the pipeline opposition.”
One Spirit Native Progress said that as well to strengthening the anti-pipeline movement, the trip would also bolster the youth’s organising efforts to combat high suicide rates on the impoverished reservation.
The Pine Ridge Reservation is “a third-world situation right in America’s back yard,” One Spirit Native progress wrote on its website. The reservation has the shortest life expectancy in the Western world outside of Haiti.
Unemployment on the reservation is estimated to be anywhere between 85-95%, with an astonishing 97% of the population living under the federal poverty line. Seventy-five percent of youth drop out of school, the group said, and diabetes is an epidemic.
“Most of the youth have been supporting their elders from afar until now, but they are determined to reach the protest site to lend their voice to the movement in person,” reads a statement by the youths. “They are more than their circumstances, and they are determined to prove it.”
The US$3.7 billion pipeline, led by Energy Transfer Inc., is expected to transport more than half a million barrels of oil a day through federal and private lands in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
Ongoing protests have united more than 300 tribes in resistance. Construction has been halted on small sections of the pipeline, but the construction of other sections is set to continue.
Native American tribes, along with environmentalists, remain determined to continue their fight until the project is suspended.
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