Students and community members gathered in solidarity with Standing Rock in Old Town Square Sunday afternoon.
Standing Rock is a Native American reservation in North Dakota and the site of many protests taking place against the North Dakota Access Pipeline.
The gathering was peaceful and full of prayers and song. Some burned incense and many were in tears intermittently throughout the gathering. An audience member described the gathering as both beautiful and sad.
By the time the gathering began, there were at least 100 people in the square. Some carried signs with varied sayings, such as “Water is Life,” “Honor the Treaty” and “The World Stands with Standing Rock.”
Members of the community were invited to the stage to speak.
Hailey Howell, a biology sophomore, was one of at least a dozen Colorado State University students present. She encouraged the audience to listen to the world around them.
“(Listening is) the biggest thing I’ve learned these past few weeks and during my time at Standing Rock,” Howell said.
Jan Iron, of the Navajo nation, and a Colorado State University alumna, stood with her children and grandchildren on stage.
“Thank you for supporting our people,” Iron said. “Our hearts are big. Today, we’re still fighting. How sad is that? This too shall pass. We’ve survived it all. Our grandkids are proof of that.”
Iron said that is it not just about water, but about the future and about healing the Earth. Her son then took to the microphone to sing a song with his drum.
Some were moved to tears when a young girl by the name of Mia ran up to the microphone to speak.
“How would we feel if our water was taken away from us?” Mia asked the audience. “I think all of you are doing a really good job by being here.”
Audience members that took the stage told stories about their pilgrimage to what was labeled as the front lines, or the specific site at Standing Rock where protests and direct action take place.
One such individual was Bailey Stenson, owner of Happy Heart Farm in Fort Collins, who traveled to Standing Rock with her husband. They brought with them over 100 pounds of food from their farm and farms in the surrounding Northern Colorado area.
An anonymous audience member took the stage.
“From state to state we are sharing this hurt and this pain,” the speaker said. “Send your light, your love, your healing energies – that’s what we can do.”
Multiple speakers described visiting the camps and finding donated clothing such as sundresses or Halloween costumes. Winter is a concern for those camped at Standing Rock and only subzero articles of clothing were encouraged, if those in the audience felt compelled to donate.
If audience members wanted to show solidarity by traveling, they were encouraged to do so sustainably, as not to put more of a burden on the tribes present at Standing Rock. Arriving sustainbly includes proper clothing for the winter months, enough food and an open heart willing to serve, according to several speakers.
Iron and her family took to the stage once more to show their solidarity, because Iron said her son’s drum was speaking to him. Iron’s son played his drum and sang again, and this time, the entire crowd was invited to participate in the dance. Many laughed, cried and hugged while dancing.
Those in the crowd were given pamphlets and advice letting them know how they could be of help to stand with Standing Rock. In addition to donating funds or other needed items and diverting funds from banks supporting the Pipeline, the audience was encouraged constantly to send prayers and love.
Collegian reporter Rachel Telljohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @racheltelljohn.