Pitzer Student Senate Declares Support for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

A student carries a sign protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline during the Claremont Colleges United Against Hate march on Nov. 11. (Meghan Joyce• The Student Life)On Nov. 20, the Pitzer College Student Senate unanimously approved Resolution 53-R-4, a resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. 

This resolution is a symbolic move by the Senate to stand in solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota and against police brutality toward the protectors, said Charlotte Hughes PZ ’18, a member of the 5C Indigenous Alliance.

Shivani Kavuluru PZ ’19, senate secretary, wrote the resolution along with several other students. They then sent the resolution to the 5C Indigenous Alliance for any edits they thought were necessary, said Kavuluru. Hughes and Phil Brayley PZ ’19, another member of the 5C Indigenous Alliance, contributed to the edits.

“When we have documents that are directly influencing a certain group of people, I feel like they should have the final say,” Kavuluru said.

Brayley said that he felt the resolution was well done and was glad it had been shared with the 5C Indigenous Alliance, because “there are a lot of issues around indigenous people not getting their say in what’s going on.”

The resolution is part of a two-pronged initiative. The first is standing in solidarity with the water protectors, and the second is having conversations about providing monetary funding and increasing awareness, said Kavuluru. She said she would be making posters educating students about actions they can take and would share a list of phone numbers students can call to express discontent about the inhumane tactics being used against the protectors.

Kavuluru said that after talking to Brayley, she concluded that the top three helpful actions were providing funding, calling to express support, and sending clothes and warm gear, though the primary means of support is monetary.

Students have tabled outside dining halls across the 5Cs requesting money and donations of supplies for the people at Standing Rock. Assistant Director for Native American Initiatives at Pomona and Pitzer College Scott Scoggins said the most effective ways for students to provide aid include donating warm clothing, contributing money to the cause, and listening to the voices of the Native groups. Hughes said that people who traveled to Standing Rock were intending to stay for only a short time, so they would end up using the resources meant for the water protectors, which was not very helpful to the cause.

“What I’m getting from people that are there, is we are getting a flood of people coming up … almost like eco-tourists,” Scoggins said, adding that he had heard reports of white people treating the camps as a concert, even bringing alcohol and marijuana.

Several 5C students have been to Standing Rock in support, including Hughes, Evan DeLorenzo PO '17, and Clarissa Worcester PO '19.

In an email to TSL, DeLorenzo and Worcester wrote, “Eco-tourism is a present manifestation of the continuous cycle of white people flippantly co-opting and making spectacle of the lived experiences of people of color, alongside cultural appropriation, gentrification, etc.”

According to DeLorenzo and Worcester, there are no protests happening at Standing Rock. Instead, indigenous people from across the country are gathered in prayer to protect drinking water serving tens of millions of people from a pipeline that would cut through tribal lands and burial sites.

Scoggins said that instead of using the word “protestors” to describe the people at Standing Rock, it is important to use words like “water protectors” or “educators.” 

DeLorenzo and Worcester wrote that people might disapprove more of the idea of police using water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures on indigenous people in prayer, than against rioting protesters, as the police have been framing it.

Scoggins expressed concerns about a potential divide between native people and non-native people, who do not know the important ceremonies and protocols, given the huge influx of people going to Standing Rock.

However, DeLorenzo and Worcester wrote, "Due to the almost incomprehensible care indigenous people at camp are giving, potential clash is instead held in love and prayer.”

In terms of action that Pitzer College can take, Josue Pasillas PZ ’17, Student Body President, wrote in an email to TSL that he “will be working with the 5C Indigenous Alliance to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their struggle for equal, dignified, and ethical treatment; preservation of sacred lands; and access to a healthy living environment. The support may include funds or items necessary during the water protectors' struggle.”

Chance Kawar PZ ’17, Senior Class Representative, wrote in an email to TSL that the Student Senate resolution was an important first step because “we owe it to Indigenous people to respect their identities, their cultures, and their lands,” and to fight back against European colonialism.