Month: October 2016

The Single Story | Chelby Gill

    In this blog post I will be discussing Miss Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “TED Talk” entitled “The Danger of a Single Story” (scroll to the end of this article to watch her TED Talk).  The consequences of the “Single Story” will be addressed using Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump’s political campaign rhetoric. Lastly I will be drawing comparisons using Black centered movies that are embraced by predominantly White film academies.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

   The inspiration for this blog came from the “TED Talk” I viewed by Miss Adichie. She brought to life feelings and emotions I have as a young African American woman in the United States. Miss Adichie narrated a beautiful expression of sincere ignorance between the two worlds of a well off Nigerian family and a poor Nigerian family.  

    In her story she refers to the poor Nigerian boy working in her home. The young Nigerian boy assisted Miss Adichie’s mother with the housework. In exchange for his work he was paid in money, leftover food for him and his family, and with hand me downs. Miss Adichie’s mother would often utilize the young Nigerian boys poverty as a tool to make her feel grateful for what she has.  Although the poor Nigerian boy showed gifted abilities, Adichie had become conditioned to only viewing the young boy as a source of pity. She literally could no longer see him or his family as anything other than poor.

    Years later she left Nigeria and went to college in the United States. Once her American roommate found out she was African she projected the very same stereotypes that Miss Adichie had for the poor Nigerian boy that worked for her family.

    Allow me if I may to give you a bulleted list of the ignorant pre conceived notions Miss Adichie’s American college roommate had of her:

  • She was shocked by how well she spoke English
  • She assumed Miss Adichie only listened to “Tribal” music
  • She was surprised that Miss Adichie could use a stove

    Miss Adichie’s American college roommate felt sorry without even getting to know her. Once she was aware of her African identity she applied her “Single Story” of Africa to Miss Adichie. That single story consisted of only Africans in catastrophe, living in extreme poverty, dying of starvation or disease and living in war torn villages.The only way her roommate could respond to this was through patronizing well meaning pity. The idea of connecting with her as human equals was gone, she could only see Miss Adichie as the embodiment of her “Single Story”. Just as Miss Adichie only saw the poor Nigerian boy as her “Single Story”.


“Single Stories” often lead to white saviorism because of the widespread belief that all of Africa is impoverished

    Later in her “TED Talk” she describes a meeting with a professor regarding her novel. The professor’s main critique regarding the novel was that it was not “authentically African”. The professor told her the characters were too much like him, a well educated middle class man. He saw a problem with the characters driving cars and not starving, this to him as an American man was not “authentically african”.

    In this “TED Talk” she acknowledges the importance of power and control in creating the “Single Story”. Power and control of how this narrative reaches the masses is crucial to developing this single story.

    Recently Donald Trump has made some more interesting comments about the Black community, or “The Blacks” as he calls them. He has been referring to Black people for decades as people who are living in “Hell”. He defines this hell as the inner cities that are riddled with drugs and crime.


Donald Trump utilizes the fact that his last name is synonymous with “advantage” and “winning” to create a positive name-association. Historically, his family name was originally Drumf, which has no name recognition.

    These stories that he has conjured up sound more like the setting of a 70’s Blaxploitation film. Now that is not saying that there are not any Black communities that deal with high rates of crime and drug use. However that has more to do with the purposeful introduction of crack in Black neighborhoods, Guns, Liquor stores, the “War on Drugs” and systemic poverty.

     Comments like these without context contribute to harmful stereotypes and tired tropes of the Black community.  It is narrated as if we are psychologically prone to commit crimes and be addicted to drugs. This is actually a consequence of systemic trauma that has been inflicted on our community.

    This brings me to wonder, what is the “Single Story” of the African American/Black community?

     Black cinema has made great advancements inspiring and uplifting our own community. Black movies also have the power to educate the masses on the complexity of the Black experience in the United States. However the movies that have been embraced, not only by mainstream audiences, but by prestigiously white film academies are those that only focus on our tragedies.

Academy Awards Infographic 18 24 - FINAL - REVISED 2-18-2015

Statistics, prompted by the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. Lack of representation for people of color in movies leads to more “Single Stories”.

    One movie that I will use as an example is Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. This small budgeted, independent film directed by Lee Daniels and heavily endorsed by Oprah Winfrey was nominated for 6 Academy Awards. It is the story of a teenage black girl who is dealing with poverty, HIV, an abusive mother, sexual assault, fat shaming, two children and being illiterate all centered in New York City in the late 80’s. This movie is basically the saddest thing ever put on screen. The intent was to show trauma on the big screen in order to start a dialogue of issues that need to be addressed, by examining the intersections of this young woman’s existence.


movie poster for Precious

    Unfortunately movies like these that are used as a tool for affirming our sometimes painful existence; they are taken and applied to the “Single Story” for the black community, family, and individual. The stories that reflect and sometimes mirror the lives of real people are gawked at by mainstream media. My problem is not with the story itself rather how white mainstream media only takes these types of stories and they then dictate what is the authentic Black experience. Films like these can force White audiences to acknowledge the violence and realities against Black people.  However these movies do not provide the full story of how those characters ended up in that position and thus absolve those in positions of privilege from having to take accountability.

     In conclusion, the common thread that is quite profound and indisputable is power. Who ever is in power has the authority to dictate the single story. Miss Adichie’s experiences with her American counterparts subjected her to the “Single Story”.  Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump utilized his “single story” of the Black community on his campaign trail. Finally, the “single story” is being celebrated by white mainstream media as portraying the “authentic Black” experience.

     It does not matter what your ethnicity is. You have been programmed to see individuals through “Single Stories”, and you must actively work to break that mindset.

Below is the TED Talk for “The Danger of a Single Story”. (with Closed Caption capability)


Female Sexuality, a Social Experiment | Charlotte Theriault

Content warning: sexist language, ableist language, and pictures of bruises/hickeys

Inspiration Strikes 

A few weeks ago I was waiting in line to get Taco Bell at the Student Union before work. While I was in line, a masculine person walked passed me with fat hickeys all over their neck. I seemed to be the only person who noticed.

“Damn, he has a LOT of confidence” I thought, thinking about the times when I had to rely on my long hair and concealer to cover up similar marks.

Then I began to think about why I worked so hard to cover up hickeys when guys could walk around with them laying across his neck like a neon red sign reading ‘I just had sex’. I wondered how people would treat a feminine person with a hickey on her neck?

Planning the Experiment 

I began this experiment by asking my boss if I could come to work on Thursday with a fake hickey on my neck, since I knew that hickeys are typically not ‘work appropriate attire’. She gave me the green light to perform my experiment for the sake of this blog post.

Social Experiment – The morning of

On the morning of the social experiment I was highly reluctant to get out of bed. For some reason I had the unshakeable fear that this experiment would make my school day difficult, especially because I had a presentation later in that day.

I sat down at my desk and pulled up a reference photo for my hickey. After sending a quick snap of my bare neck to my long-distance boyfriend (to assure him that my hickey was 100% makeup & not from someone else) I broke out my makeup and set to work ( I’m linking the products I used to achieve my fake hickey in case you’re curious, there are a whole bunch of other products that could probably achieve the same result).

The first thing I did was rub eye shadow primer on my neck. Then I took a yellow color corrector and ran it along my neck in a big oval shape. Then I took a purple-based red eye shadow  on my finger and smudged a small oval-ish shape on my neck. Because there was shimmer in that shadow, I added some of a matte, darker reddish brown shadow on top. Then I set my fake hickey with setting powder.

When I was done I went out into the hallway of my apartment where my housemate was getting ready. I decided I’d ask her for her input on my handiwork.

“Does this look like a hickey?” I asked her.

“Uh, kind of?” she replied, “do you need a thicker concealer?” she began to search through her bag for one.
“Oh no, I gave myself a fake hickey to do a social experiment for my blog.” I told her, apparently she thought I was trying to cover my hickey and failed miserably. Another one of my roommates, who knew about my social experiment, asked me to turn so she can see.

“Damn Char that looks real!” She exclaimed.

Suddenly I felt gross and uncomfortable. I did the rest of my makeup and got ready for class. Every time I walked past a mirror I could see my hickey staring me down. I began to feel like a cheater, knowing that my boyfriend was two hours away from me and yet I had a hickey. I snapped him again to make sure he still new it was fake.

After awhile my anxiety subsided. I put my hair up in a ponytail so that I could expose my neck, revealing my hickey. I made sure to change into my outfit for the day carefully so I didn’t smudge my neck. Soon it was time to leave for my class, and my third roommate wanted to walk with me since his class was on the way. Time to take this test outside.

It took all of three minutes for my roommate to see the hickey on my neck. Our conversation went as followed:

“Oh my God Charlotte you have a big ass hickey! Wait is that a hickey or something else?”

“What do you think?” I asked.

“A hickey?! Oh my God Charlotte that’s so bad! You shouldn’t get hickeys where people can see them!”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Do you even care?” He asked; I shrugged my shoulders in response. “I guess you don’t care since you’re walking around with it out like that. But it’s so bad Charlotte! They’re so easy to get rid of! You’re supposed to ice it right away or scrape it with a spoon or quarter!”

I shrugged my shoulders again, “I’ve had this since I saw [my boyfriend] on Sunday; I just gave up trying to hide it.” I told him. We split off our separate ways as we both had separate classes to attend.


My fake hickey, a few hours after application in direct sunlight (It was darker in person)

Social Experiment – First class of the day

Immediately after I sat down, I felt the eyes of the girl behind me lingering on my neck. She stared down at my neck on and off for the first half hour of my lecture. I felt really uncomfortable. The people that usually sit to the right of me (on the side of my fake hickey) moved to sit behind me instead. I began to feel as though I had some sort of plague. Thankfully no one flat out mentioned the dark bruise on my neck, which helped me focus on the lecture I was attending.

The first class of my Tuesdays & Thursdays is a two-part class with a lecture and seminar combined. In seminar I was supposed to present a speech, so I was highly anxious. Normally I’m totally okay with delivering a speech, but I was impulsively thinking about how everyone was going to judge me for having a hickey, which made me fearful to talk to the whole class. The class kicked off with a group debate, which lasted the whole class period. Thankfully my professor told me I could do my speech some other time because we ran out of time due to the in class debate.  I talked to her after class about rescheduling my speech, and at one point I thought that she had seen my hickey because she was on my right side.

I felt really unprofessional. I typically would never talk to a professor with a hickey on my neck. After I walked away from her I sent her an email immediately to explain my fake hickey, trying to save my good self-image. After stressing over the email for a response she finally replied

“I didn’t notice! But that might just be because I’m oblivious!

I think it’s perfectly fine if you do sport a hicky, though…”

I felt a sense of relief wash over me. It was also really nice to know that my Professor was open to people expressing and displaying their sexuality. I was glad that most of my experiences today weren’t too bad.

My next class was a math workshop, where I sat across from a middle-aged woman. She kept staring me down whenever she could see my hickey, but when I met her eyes with mine she averted them. We repeated this body language all class long. I wondered if she was going to say anything about my hickey, but aside from her eyes she didn’t acknowledge it.

Social Experiment – The hell that is math

When my math workshop ended I had some down time to go back to my apartment. I touched up my hickey and made it a tiny bit darker. Then I decided that it would be more effective to tie my hair up in a bun so that the entirety of my neck was exposed at all times.

My math class is filled with incoming freshman, and most of them still fully carried the immaturity of high school. I was assigned to sit in the front every day due to the fact that I’m Hard Of Hearing. Everyone else has moved into their unassigned seats after the first few days of lecture. The people who sit around me are ignorant. They’ve repeatedly talked about sexist, racist, and ableist things in my presence throughout the professor’s lecture. To be completely transparent I had to force myself to go to this class with a hickey on my neck because I didn’t want to give them ammunition to make me more uncomfortable. For the sake of this article, I pressed on and walked into the lecture hall.

The lecture hall is split into three sections of chairs, each section is divided by a pathway so people can get to their seats. One of the people in the friend group that sits behind me was having a conversation with the guy who sits directly behind me. We’ll call the guy who sits to the right of me “R” and the guy who sits behind me “S”.

R sees my hickey and stops mid-sentence. Suddenly the topic switches to the fact that they both (surprisingly) have girlfriends.

“My bitch is very supportive of me.” R says. I almost couldn’t believe the words came out of his mouth.

They go back and forth talking about their ‘bitches’. I sighed deeply, which S took notice of. Suddenly S gets the idea to try to instigate me further. He knows I sit in the front of the room for my disability but doesn’t know what my disability is. He decides that it must be an intellectual disability and turns to R, blurting out “dude you’re retarded!”

R laughs. “I’m not bro, you are!”

“I bet you think the word retarded is funny huh? I saw you laugh! Say it. Say you’re retarded if you think the word is funny!”

“I’m not going to say retarded!” R yells. Then they both start laughing.

I’m fuming. I felt attacked and insulted. After sending out an angry tweet or two about the situation I decided that the best thing to do would be to ignore them.  I felt as though if I called them out they would call me sexist slurs in class. I wished I hadn’t given myself a hickey, I felt like a target for merely exposing to the word the information that women could express their sexuality in the same ways that men could. I focused on the lecture at hand and ignored their voices for the rest of class.

Social Experiment – Other Reactions

After class I had work, and MOSAIC was hosting their monthly Open Mic Night. Even though I was Co-Hosting in the Starbucks lounge, no one mentioned my hickey except for a frequent visitor of MOSAIC. He winked (in a friendly way) and gave me thumbs up. I did notice however that while I was asked for an interview for the Spartan Daily that would be written down, my hickey-less co-host had her interview on camera.

After work I went to my apartment and realized that I could get more reactions on Snapchat, so I posted two pictures on Snapchat to see if I could get any more reactions.


The dog filter seemed appropriate considering the fact that I was ‘doggone’ tired

immediately my best friend from back home messaged me on Snapchat

“nice hickie 😂😭” she commented

“Thanks! 😂” I replied

“Hahah hoe” she responded. I could tell that she didn’t mean Hoe in a malicious way, and I knew that she herself had had a fair share of people talking about her sexuality behind her back. Still, I felt as though I was a ‘hoe’ for simply having a visible hickey in the first place.


My hearing-ear kept popping because of allergies, leaving me profoundly deaf throughout the day

A girl I went to high school with also sent me a chat on Snapchat after seeing the above picture:

“what’s that on your neck I see u girl ;))” she said. After telling her that my boyfriend came down to visit me she replied, “I’m messin w you hahah glad ur having fun!!!”

The takeaway

After the experiment I definitely noticed that I stopped caring if other people were looking at me or not. I do believe that women get bashed for expressing their sexuality, and that’s something that needs to change.

Until then, feel free to cover up or show your hickeys as you please. It’s about to be scarf season (;


Why Did the Emily Doe*/Brock Turner Rape Case Explode on Media? | Jenna Edra


Trigger warning: Sexual assault, rape

* News outlets have referred to the anonymous victim of this rape case as Emily Doe.


     I’m not done talking about this case and rape culture, and I hope you aren’t either.


     I ask this question not to criticize the national attention that this case deserved, but I ask it to challenge collective complacency in the face of regular news about sexual assault and to encourage action stimulated by critical thought.  


     The media picked up the story and, rightfully so, ran with it. The rape case trended on social media, became commonly known, and even inspired the passing of legislation that protects survivors of rape. But as someone who feels so strongly about combatting sexual violence, I questioned why some people didn’t apply the same outrage to all other cases of sexual assault. While the mainstream media plays a huge role in bringing events to the public’s consciousness and in shaping what society sees as “newsworthy,” many people don’t seem to circulate articles or talk about them when news about sexual assault does surface.


     Here are just three reasons why I believe the Emily Doe/Brock Turner rape case was both widely reported on by the media and circulated by the public:  


1) The anonymous letter


     Emily Doe’s 12-page open letter to her rapist has been described as powerful, raw, and personal. It was read by millions, including the U.S. House of Representatives and Vice President Joe Biden, who penned his own letter to the victim in response. A difficult but important read, the letter can make anyone feel sympathetic toward Doe and furious at Turner, Aaron Persky, and the broken judicial system.


     Just as much as the letter is emotionally impactful, it is descriptive, informative, and accessible to those who might be unaware of the experiences of sexual assault victims. It brings to light the traumatization of being raped and facing the “irreversible damage” in the aftermath.


     In addition, the anonymity of the letter protected the survivor’s identity and prevented people from accessing details of her life that could have been used against her in the form of victim-blaming. It also eliminates the projection of racism and other prejudiced beliefs onto the victim that could have detracted attention from the sexual assault itself. Would people have cared as much if Doe was Black? Transgender? Perhaps not. It’s necessary to consider intersectionality and the role it always plays in media coverage.


2) The 3-month jail sentence


     It’s not complicated: the three months of jail time that Turner received was a slap on the wrist. Galvanized by blatant injustice, people took to social media to voice their opinions and spread petitions, and to the streets to protest Turner and recall the Santa Clara County judge.     


     The irony is that Turner spent more time in jail than nearly all rapists ever will. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), “out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.”


3) The “Stanford” clickbait

     As shorthand, the media referred to Doe as the “Stanford survivor/victim,” Turner as the “Stanford rapist.” It is possible that the media also intentionally capitalized on mentioning “Stanford” in headlines, turning it into a kind of clickbait. Bay Area people understood how this case was happening in (or near) their backyard, while anyone not native to this area could have still been intrigued by the juxtaposition of rape and criminal injustice beside a prestigious, world-renowned university.


     But all that glitters is not gold. According to the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, which centers around sexual assault on college campuses in the U.S., Stanford University has only expelled one student out of 259 reported cases of sexual assault from 1996 to 2013.



     I realize that sexual assault is a heavy topic that can be draining for anyone to read and talk about, and in no way do I expect survivors to follow the news about sexual assault at the expense of their mental and emotional wellbeing. But if you have the time, energy, and resources, I urge you to stay informed and outraged at the insidious epidemic of sexual violence. Don’t rely on mainstream media to be your moral compass; sexual assault, occurs every 2 minutes in the U.S. .  Each case demands your attention and support regardless of whether it trends online or not. Rape culture cannot be dismantled if we only show up to speak on the next “big” case.


     If you’re interested in supporting survivors and joining the fight against sexual violence, consider these action steps:

  • Educate yourself about sexual assault through personal research, re-post articles about sexual assault, and share what you know with others.   
    • See websites such as for statistics on sexual assault.
    • Watch The Hunting Ground, available on Netflix and iTunes.
  • Familiarize yourself with on and off campus resources for victims of sexual assault. Given the frequent and widespread nature of sexual assault, it’s probable that you know a survivor, even if they have not have come forward as a victim.
  • Volunteer at a local organization, such as Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) and YWCA Silicon Valley.
    • I currently volunteer at YWCA as a crisis line counselor. Feel free to contact me at if you would like more information about how the application process works, what volunteering has been like, etc.

     If you are a victim of sexual assault, see the links above to resources and services if needed. I echo the words of Emily Doe: “I am with you.”  

Why You Should Say “NO” to The Dakota Access Pipeline, and “YES” to Supporting Indigenous Rights | Emma Cárdenas




     The Dakota Access Pipeline is a proposed oil pipeline, an Energy Transfer Partners project, that would run through several states, transporting crude oil (petroleum) from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa and culminating in Illinois. The pipeline would run through several sacred Native American burial sites and other indigenous lands. In order to ensure understanding of the significance of this pipeline and its implications on the indigenous peoples in our country, we need to make sure we’re all on the same page — so let’s break it down.


The 411 On Oil:29292714741_ed40a7bd4d_k

     There’s a lot to know about oil, but with so much information, it’s hard to know where to start; especially when its usage is so normalized within our society. We all use oil, but what do we even know about how it’s obtained — or what it even really is?

  • What is petroleum? Petroleum is a fossil fuel formed from organic matter (ancient plants, animals, and microbes) buried deep in the Earth beneath a lot of sediment.
  • How do we obtain petroleum? Well, petroleum already exists inside the Earth, so we have to extract it by drilling (as deep as six miles beneath the Earth, in most cases) and using a lot of tools to manipulate the oil inside of a tube that the oil workers then need to be able to control. Ever heard of “fracking?” This is it.
  • Why do we need petroleum? Unfortunately, we use petroleum as fuel for our cars, jets, and heating oil in addition to loads of other ways — such as in plastic, asphalt, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, detergents, photographic film, furniture, packaging materials, surfboards, paints, upholstery; and in the production of helium, sulfur,  & other valuable materials.
  • But, do we really need it? In short — yes. The oil industry is a big contender in the U.S. economy. I could write a whole other blog post on just how deeply our politics, economy, and everyday lives are messily intertwined with the oil industry — but I won’t. The important thing to know is, that intermingling could change! And it can with your action. There are a lot of alternatives out there; leading alternatives include alcohol, solar, wind, hydrogen and biofuels.


The 411 On The Pipeline:


     The pipeline is anticipated to bring in an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes and millions in state and local revenues.

  • The Dakota Access Pipeline is a proposed oil pipeline that would transport light, sweet crude oil (unrefined petroleum).
  • DAPL would cut through 50 counties in 4 states, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois; stretching 1,172 miles in length .
  • The pipeline would create 8-12,000 temporary constructions jobs and a maximum of 40 permanent operating jobs.


Tribal Relations in the United States:082916-selbein_dakotapipeline_arrest

  • There are 562 federally recognized Tribal Nations in the United States  which breaks down to about 5.4 million people according to the 2014 census. Despite this large number, the United States repeatedly fails the indigenous people whose land we live on by largely disregarding their pleas when important situations are ongoing (such as this) — and their mere existence the rest of the time.  
  • Native Americans “possess a nationhood status and retain inherent powers of self-government,” meaning that tribal nations are sovereign powers while their tribe members are still considered U.S. citizens . The United States’ relations with Tribal Nations has largely been conducted through treaties, which are contracts among nations. The most important legal obligation in so-called “Indian affairs” is the federal Indian trust responsibility, “under which the United States ‘has charged itself with moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust’ toward Indian tribes (Seminole Nation v. United States, 1942)” . This legislation requires that the United States protect tribal lands and resources, among other things, including assets and treaty rights .
  • Although the treaties that exist are between sovereign powers, the Tribal Nations clearly have less power than the U.S. federal government. With that said, although the U.S. government is legally bound to the treaties they’ve enacted with Tribal Nations, we don’t really know what consequences they may face if they ever violate these treaties — or if they would even face any.


Understanding The #NoDAPL Protests:


  • after prStanding Rock is a Native American tribe — the Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota. Sacred Stone is the camp at which they and their indigenous peers have gathered to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, defend the land and to protect the water supply that the pipeline would tarnish in the highly likely event that it were to break.
  • There are currently more than 300 tribal nations at the Standing Rock camp protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in order to protect the water. This is the largest gathering of Tribal Nations in history.
  • The pipeline has been under construction since the early summer. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a motion for an emergency halt of construction in order to protect their land on June 27th .
  • The Obama administration revoked their authorization for DAPL construction on September 9th. However, construction has since resumed.  
  • The Governor of North Dakota has called in the National Guard as a response to the protests — with 24 soldiers on site and another hundred on call . Prior to this decision, Energy Transfer Partners had private security on site at the construction grounds where water protectors were peacefully protesting. The private security had canines and were allowing the dogs to attack the water protectors, resulting in several being injured and bloodied.


Why does all of this matter?


  • Fossil fuels, such as petroleum, are responsible for 11.3% of greenhouse gas emissions, which are connected to global warming/climate change.
  • The pipeline would disturb important Native American cultural sites. It already has — bulldozers purposely bulldozed sacred burial sites, cultural artifacts and prayer sites in response to tribal protests . This was done one day after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed their emergency motion, which identified these sacred sites.
  • The movement to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline is not just a crisis for the human and land rights of Native Americans, but it is also for everyone else in the pipeline’s proposed pathway, who live off of water from the Missouri River. Oil pipelines are well-known for bursting, especially ones that have been thought, or at least claimed to be, completely safe and secure. That means these water protectors are fighting for this generation and for many, many more down the line; not just Native generations, but all.
  • This fight is extremely important to the indigenous peoples still living in the U.S. because the way that this is situation is handled by the federal government may potentially set the precedent for how, going forward, we will treat Native peoples and their lands; commodifying and capitalizing on them without consequence.


The Connection to SJSU:


     If these reasons alone haven’t swayed you towards supporting Standing Rock and the #NoDAPL movement, maybe bringing it closer to home will help. I spoke with Joey Montoya, a fifth-year San Jose State student, founder of SJSU’s Native American Student Organization, and a Lipan Apache born and raised in San Francisco. Montoya spent some time at the Standing Rock camp this summer to defend the water and support the plight of his fellow indigenous peoples. “The most memorable part of my stay at Standing Rock was the people. More than 200 Tribal Nations coming to join [Standing Rock]. This is the first time [in history] this many Native nations have come together. They not only came to support Standing Rock, but they know that Water is Life,” Montoya said.


     If you hadn’t heard about the Dakota Access Pipeline or the #NoDAPL movement before this post, don’t feel bad — mainstream media hasn’t covered the movement for most of the time it’s been going on. “I am not surprised that the media isn’t covering the DAPL,” Montoya said, “because the media has never shared an interest in Native communities or what is happening on and off the Reservations to Native people. It wasn’t until celebrities and independent media started to support/cover Standing Rock that mainstream media actually started to report on DAPL.”


     The United States has a long history of ignoring the indigenous peoples we stole this land from. “Since 1491, we have continued to be mistreated. It never stopped… and the government has continued to commit genocide [of] Indigenous Peoples, just in different forms,” Montoya said. “We weren’t considered citizens until 1924 when Congress granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. And it wasn’t until 1957 that all states in the U.S. gave Native Americans the right to vote. [There is this] idea that Indigenous Peoples are all gone [from the U.S.] and our educational system has contributed to that idea. Until the United States recognizes this genocide and listens to us, this will continue to happen to our people.”


      I asked Montoya why water is so important, and why it’s important that the DAPL protesters are referred to as “protectors” instead of as “protesters.” As a Linguistics major, I understand that language is an extremely powerful tool, and that most people don’t realize the potential effects it can have on an individual’s — and consequently, society’s — ideas, opinions, actions and overall life. Montoya answered, “Mni Wiconi — Water is Life. It is an easy concept to understand, yet we have a difficult time actually understanding it. As indigenous peoples, we know that we are caretakers of the land and water. We recognize it’s important. We are made up of water and if water goes, we go…. I think people need to start realizing that we are protecting the water and land, not only for Standing Rock, but [also for the] 18 million people who drink from the Missouri River. We are water protectors and will continue to call ourselves that.”


     If you want to support Standing Rock and are unable to do so in person, you can still provide allyship and get involved in this fight. “Overall, people can get educated about the issue… call the White House or Dakota Access and ask them to stop the pipeline. Another way is helping Standing Rock with legal fees. Many people and groups, such as Shailene Woodley and #UpToUS, Indigenous Environmental Network, Urban Native Era, and more are not only raising awareness of the issue, but raising money [for the cause]. Some of the people or networks have made t-shirts to sell to raise funds for Standing Rock. If you would like to help, donate [and] go to”


The Takeaway:


     Literally since the beginning of the United States, our government has failed to recognize Native ownership of this land or even of their basic human rights. Construction may be halted at this time, but the Dakota Access Pipeline is far from over. The Army Corps of Engineers is simply sitting back, waiting for the attention on DAPL to die down and for the indigenous peoples to move out from the Standing Rock camp so that they may proceed with construction without indigenous bodies further obstructing their paths.


     This is why we must keep talking about Standing Rock. If we do not support them, the indigenous people of this land will lose yet another battle to the oppressive system that is the U.S. federal government. We must stand in solidarity with Standing Rock and the other Tribal Nations of this land. We must do more.


     Protect indigenous rights. Protect our water. Protect the earth for future generations.


     Mni Wiconi. Water is life. #NoDAPL.


Do More:

  • Sign the petition to the White House .
  • Visit the #NoDAPL movement’s website.
  • Support Standing Rock.
  • Contact your local representative today to influence their stance on green energy and demand their support for the indigenous peoples of the United States.
  • Contact the big banks sponsoring the pipeline. Contact details and suggestions of what to say can be found here.
  • Support Urban Native Era.
  • Support Indigenous Environmental Network.
  • Outreach to celebrities who you think would support the cause — they have a platform, and if we pressure them, they might use it to raise awareness about Standing Rock.
  • Outreach in your everyday lives — educate those around you about what’s happening at Standing Rock. Ask if they’ve heard, and ask what they’re doing about it. What are you doing about it?