This weekend, about 30 youth from the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires (the proper name for the Sioux people) completed their symbolic run to Washington, D.C. They left North Dakota on July 15 with one goal in mind: Stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
When the runners arrived in D.C. on Friday (Aug. 5), they ran an additional mile from the Supreme Court to the Army Corps Headquarters and protested its July 26 decision to approve the final permits for the 1,172-mile-long pipeline to cross tribal waters. Later that afternoon, the Corps, the Department of Defense and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation met with the Native youth.
The runners had another stop, delivering a petition the following day to the White House. Addressed to the Army Corps of Engineers, the document—which has accrued more than 160,000 signatures online—demands a stop to the pipeline’s construction. Roughly 150 others joined them in D.C., as some runners gave speeches followed by songs and prayers. “It was beautiful,” said campaigner Juliana Britto Schwartz, via email about Saturday’s rally.
The act of running is a symbolic one: “Way back in the old days when tribes needed to send messages, they would send out their fastest runners,” says Bobbi Jean Three Legs, one of the organizers. But the run is also a sacrifice: “We’re making ourselves uncomfortable to bring awareness about the pipeline in our lives,” she adds.
This discomfort brought the runners some celebrity attention, too. Actresses Shailene Woodley and Riley Keough joined the group in D.C. The following day, a rally with approximately 130 people was held in New York City, with Woodley and Rosario Dawson in attendance. Avengers actor Mark Ruffalo shared the event on social media.
The group provided photos to Colorlines, showcasing the weekend.