Dakota Access Pipeline focus of MU Native American Heritage Month

Marshall University celebrated Native American Heritage Month and raised awareness to the largest Native American protest movement in modern history against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Wednesday in the Don Morris Room.

Autumn Haithcock, president of the Native American Student Organization, said she thinks it’s important to have celebrations like this at Marshall because the university states that it is for diversity.

“I think that this is a huge thing that needs to be talk about because we are the first people of this country and we are rarely talked about,” Haithcock said. “We are a small portion in a history or political science class.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion project that stretches across North Dakota to Illinois, causing national attention as thousands of people, including major environmental groups and Native Americans, come together to protest and halt the construction.

The pipeline is being put on the Standing Rock Sioux territory, raising concerns to members of the tribe that it might be an environmental and cultural threat to their homeland.

According to NBC News, an oil spill would permanently contaminate the Missouri River, a major water source for millions of people.

“Other than raising awareness, this celebration also encompasses native culture as a whole,” Haithcock said. “Ever since this country began, we have been fighting for our rights; land rights, water rights and our rights just as human beings in general.”

Manal Abdullah, graduate in healthcare administration, said she was glad to see cultures being celebrated in the university.

“It’s very important for Marshall to do this because Native Americans are not widely shown in the media,” Abdullah said. “They are not visible as part of the American society and I was so surprised that they are still around.”

Haithcock said as many differences as people have, there are a lot more similarities, going back to the Dakota Access Pipeline where everyone needs water to live.

“Whether we are of different ethnicities or not, we are connected and we should work together instead of fight each other,” Haithcock said.

Kessyl Lim can be contacted at [email protected].