Voth attends Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock

Supports Native American heritage in protection of sacred tribal lands

Katherine Lindgren

More stories from Katherine Lindgren

The plans for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) being laid near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota have led to an uproar over the potential issues it could cause. Not only are the members of the Sioux tribe that live there concerned about the possibility of water contamination from the pipeline, but also the damage that would be done to their sacred lands. Since April, Native Americans and activists have been peacefully protesting the completion of this pipeline. Senior Jonathan Voth attended the protest.

“My uncle and a group of (Bethel) college kids went to show our support from here in Newton,” Voth said.

Voth’s Native American heritage gives him a unique tie to the tribe in Standing Rock.

“I am actually Navajo, my tribe is from Arizona. I am also Puebloan. My uncle asked me to go up there to support our tribe,” Voth said.

Like many other protesters, Voth takes issue with both the pipeline itself, and the disrespect it shows towards the Native peoples.

“It’s drilling under the river, and they’re doing that without their permission. They’re coming on to the land without the permissions of the native tribe and the tribal leaders, and it upsets me that they keep getting away with these things without permission,” Voth said.

People from all over the country have traveled to the reservation to make their voices heard.

“There were about 5,000-6,000 people there, it was a large event,” Voth said.
His experience at the Standing Rock protests gave him an insight into the issues there, and allowed him to contribute to the cause.

“It was very enlightening. I went up there hoping to figure out things in a different way and see things differently. I wanted to show my support. I thought I was just going to be on DA (direct action), which is the frontlines, where we interact with the cops, but I actually was there helping out in the hospital area and with food. We were also helping out with building on the southwest side. I went once to direct action and that was about it,” Voth said.

While Voth only attended for a short while, some protesters have been fighting for their cause for a much longer period of time.

“I was there for three days, but some people have actually been there for eight or ten months,” Voth said.

Reports of police violence toward the peaceful protesters have been circulating since near the beginning of the event. Tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons (during freezing temperatures) and rubber bullets have been used against protesters.

“I didn’t firsthand witness that. They only deployed a little bit of tear gas when we were at Turtle Hill. The was because Red Warrior camp planned to go up there while we were doing our direct action event, and that was without the permission of elders. They deployed the tear gas to prevent them from getting up the hill,” Voth said.

On Sunday, Dec. 4, it was announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied the planned route for the pipeline, which will now be rerouted. However, despite this victory, protesters continue to stand their ground against the pipeline and remain on the reservation.

“They were mainly upset about the pipeline and how people always get away with things because of greed and money on their land,” Voth said. “They were very upset, but they tried to keep everything peaceful. They want everything to stay calm, they don’t want violence.”