A candlelight vigil took place on Oct. 30 at Evergreen Rotary Park in Bremerton in support of the Standing Rock protest.                                Michelle Beahm / Kitsap News Group

A candlelight vigil took place on Oct. 30 at Evergreen Rotary Park in Bremerton in support of the Standing Rock protest. Michelle Beahm / Kitsap News Group

Residents stand in solidarity with Standing Rock

BREMERTON — Across the nation, thousands of people — including those in Bremerton — are joining together to oppose construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Energy Transfer Partners proposes to install a section of the pipeline under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. Energy Transfer’s website describes it as a “new underground crude oil pipeline designed to transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day.”

Opponents say the pipeline threatens public health, water and cultural resources, according to a Smithsonian Magazine article written by Aaron Sidder on Sept. 14, when it was reported the pipeline is nearly 60 percent complete.

“What began as a small protest camp in April on the Standing Rock reservation has since morphed into an encampment with over 1,000 people,” Sidder wrote. “Over the past few months, the Sacred Stone Camp, as it is now called, has been the site of a number of antagonistic face offs between protests and the oil company.”

Camp of the Sacred Stones (sacredstonecamp.org), the protest’s official website, reported “hundreds of water protectors … were met with violence by militarized police in riot gear, and approximately 141 were arrested.”

Recently, groups of people nationwide were joining the protest. More than 1 million people “checked in” at Standing Rock via Facebook to show their virtual support, and people have been gathering together for sign-waving and vigils in a show of solidarity as well.

One such event took place on Oct. 30 in Bremerton.

Organized by Jennifer Chamberlin of Bremerton, the group first met downtown in the early evening to wave signs and promote awareness of the protest. Then, at 6:15 p.m., a group gathered at Evergreen Rotary Park for a candlelight vigil.

“I just feel called to support the cause because it’s just so important,” Chamberlin said. “Why are we not doing more to protect this water source? The concern is that there’s going to be leaks, and there have been leaks.”

More than a dozen people attended the vigil on that rainy evening. Valarie St. Pierre-Hodge blessed those in attendance, using sage and a feather. People shared their thoughts and prayers for the protesters over lit candles, and the group brainstormed ways they could help.

One person in attendance will be traveling to Standing Rock in mid-November to help medical professionals on the front lines. Others are planning on donating supplies through sacred stonecamp.org.

Monica Luk, a member of the Yurok Tribe in California and a Port Orchard resident, attended the event with her children.

“I think, being Native American myself, we are kind of a collective,” Luk said. “When something affects one of us, it affects us all.

“Even though that isn’t my Tribe there … they’re still my people. If I can’t be there to stand with Standing Rock there, I will do what I can here to show my support for them.”

Luk said it’s not enough for people to just agree that what’s happening is wrong.

“There’s something everybody can do,” Luk said. “It’s not enough to just say, ‘That’s a terrible thing that’s happening.’ It’s not enough. They have to take that a step further. Write our congressmen, our legislators, our president. Find every petition you can get your hands on. Attend these protests. There are so many things that people can do if they can’t be on the front lines.”

Luk said the Oct. 30 gathering was “wonderful,” but she “just can’t believe” there weren’t more people there.

“I really think that the majority of people agree that this is a horrible thing that’s happening to Native Americans right now,” she said. “Where is everybody? Even where we were demonstrating. Where is everybody? I want to scream to the top of my lungs, ‘Where is everybody?’ ”

To that end, Luk is organizing another demonstration. From noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 6, at the roundabout outside Hi Joy Bowl in Port Orchard, Luk will host a demonstration to bring awareness of Standing Rock. She plans to provide markers and signs so people can make their signs when they arrive, if they want.

“We’re just trying to do more community events that bring awareness to it,” Luk said. “I honestly think there are still people who aren’t aware of what’s going on, and it’s honestly driving me crazy.”

Luk is spreading the word as much as she can, talking to local businesses and posting on local Facebook groups, including Chamberlin’s group, “Kitsap #NoDAPL in Solidarity to ND Water Protectors.”

Details for Luk’s demonstration can be found at goo.gl/NPPY6D.

There will also be an open meeting in Suquamish to inform attendees of the issue and coordinate donations and support. The meeting is planned from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the House of Awakened Culture, 7235 NW Parkway, Suquamish. Learn more about the meeting at goo.gl/QZhtnW.

“I think the biggest thing … is that being aware is great, and that’s the first step,” Luk said. “But there has to be a call to action. We have to encourage everybody to go that step further, and that it’s not enough to say, ‘I’m sorry this is happening.’

“I think we all have a responsibility to do something more. Whether that’s traveling and standing with our brothers and sisters, or making a donation to those standing on the front lines, whether it’s doing protest demonstrations to bring awareness (or writing congressmen), do something. Anything. Just do something. Do something more than just think that it’s a bad thing.”

— Michelle Beahm is a reporter for the Bremerton Patriot and Central Kitsap Reporter. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

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