It was Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 when President Donald Trump signed the executive order reversing the halt of the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL). With help from the First Nation Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who pointed out that the project would violate treaty rights, protests succeeded in halting one of the largest proposed projects to funnel Oil and Gas from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico through the Dakotas. It was a temporary victory for those who opposed it.
On Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 Kelli Sanchez and Annie Vermilyea-Dropik, teachers at Far Horizons Elementary School announced the decision by the president to their students. The DAPL had been discussed in class where the students supported efforts to halt the project. Sanchez, who is a member of the First Nation Tribe Siletz has been teaching her students about the importance of protecting the environment. When she informed the class that DAPL was likely to move forward, they were angry. So angry they decided to stage a protest march in front of their school on the busy stretch of Hilyard at the corner of 24th avenue. Hand-made signs with messages like “No to DAPL”, “Water is life” and “It is the Native’s land, don’t steal it” the students marched on the sidewalk chanting “You can’t drink oil” and “No to the Dakota Access Pipeline”. People honked and waved their approval as they drove by the demonstration.
Afterward, students were asked “How did it make you feel to be part of this?” All of the participants said they enjoyed it. Trinity, a 3rd grade student said “It made me feel really good to be supported” and Ryver “The people waving and honking on the road gave me encouragement to yell louder”. Terran, one of the older students said “It felt good to be part of something that is happening across the world, it was great to make my voice heard on something this big.” Another student, Sydney was short and to the point, “It was stupendous” she said. “I felt it was awesome because there are a lot, I mean a whole lot of people in the world who agree with us” said Alla, a student who is generally more reserved, but in this case, it was clear she felt proud of her actions. Gabriel, another of the older classmates said “I want to do more of this because we need people to know how important it is that we stand up for our environment against the oil and gas industry”.
Annie told her class, “It was great to see all of you who disagreed with something and found a creative way to express yourselves. It was really awesome.” Kelli Sanchez echoed this sentiment saying “I love these kids, this was completely student led, we just gave them the information and they ran with it, they are awesome.”
So if you ever wonder whether the kids of Eugene pay attention to issues that will affect them in the future, this should be a wake-up call to parents. These kids are listening, they are paying attention, and they will not hesitate to make their voices heard on issues they see as important even if they can’t vote yet. So make your voice heard, they are listening!