Quest students have expressed solidarity with Water Protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, by divesting from banks invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, blockading the entrance to the TD Bank offices in Vancouver, attending local Indigenous-led demonstrations, and donating to legal funds. Some Quest students are even pursuing support for the Water Defenders at Standing Rock by travelling down to North Dakota to volunteer, raise awareness, and bring supplies.
Shayla Tate, fourth-year Quest student from Quadra Island of the Métis Nation, was given support from Métis Nation members to deliver and represent their flag, the oldest in Canada, at Standing Rock over November block break. When she told her Métis community that she wanted to stand with Water Protectors, they handed her traditional necklaces, jackets, and the flag.
When Tate arrived at the U.S. border crossing south of Vancouver on Wednesday November 23, however, Tate’s car was searched and her journal was read by U.S. Border Patrol agents. According to Tate, the patrol person’s response to seeing Standing Rock mentioned in her journal was, “We know you’re lying. You need to confess or there’s no way we’ll let you across and we might ban you from the States,” bullying her into admitting that she was joining the protectors.
“There’s this paradox of us being made to feel so far away from Standing Rock and yet we’re so connected to the same corruption and oppression that keeps the system going,” explained Tate. “There’s enough of us that if we could all stand up, we could voice that we don’t want this to happen. But it’s not that people are lazy, or sheep, or ignorant, it’s literally the State suppression that’s not letting people physically get through borders and stand in solidarity that’s keeping this complacency and getting in the way of action.”
On the first Monday of December block, Emmy Cole and Wesley Lapointe, two non-Indigenous first-year Quest students, also left for Standing Rock to to deliver supplies and show support from Quest and Squamish. While they’re both white, U.S. citizens without much risk of rejection, a Quest student warned them of Tate’s experience. They managed to cross the border without a problem, however.
Cole acknowledged that being a non-Indigenous ally in an Indigenous-led movement complicated the decision to travel to Standing Rock. According to some reports, a number of so-called “white allies” have acted like tourists upon arriving in North Dakota, treating the resistance camp like Burning Man. Cole and Lapointe plan on navigating this by being open and flexible to daily needs of the camp. Lapointe hopes to take photographs of people he forms relationships with while there, but recognizes that being a white photographer in an environment where Native American people are violently targeted by police will change his relationship to his camera. “I’ve never been in a situation where there are restrictions on what I can do with my camera, if I’m even allowed to use it, I don’t know,” said Lapointe. “Obviously if I can’t, I’ll do other work.”
For students not in a position to travel to Standing Rock, there are many ways to show solidarity from Quest. The səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations, whose traditional, unceded territories we live on in Squamish, have led actions over the past few weeks that students can join as allies. It is recommended that supporters send prayers and watch media from the frontlines (check out Unicorn Riot and Democracy Now). If your money is in an account with TD Canada Trust, RBC, or Scotiabank (all of which invest in Dakota Access pipeline), divesting into a local credit union is a way to weaken pipeline supporters with your money. Vocalizing your opposition to pipeline projects to politicians such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr, or Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, through letters, emails, and phonecalls is another way to put pressure on decision makers. With Prime Minister Trudeau’s approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which would go through Burnaby Mountain, support for Indigenous rights movements and Water Protectors is more important than ever.