Six IU freshmen will drive nonstop and unaccompanied for 18 hours to deliver donated supplies to protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
The students plan to join the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
They will distribute any supplies collected to protesters Oct. 8.
“I want to learn more about the relationship between the government and the native people,” said Maggie Gates, a member of the group. “I really connect with those people.”
Natalia Kuzbiel had the idea for the trip last week after seeing the large media following around the Standing Rock protests.
She and other friends organized the collection of donations as a project for their Collins Living-Learning Center freshman seminar and sought $300 in funding from the Collins Board of Governors for gas money. So far, the students have received $250 and a few nonperishable food items. Any other expenses incurred during their trip will be self-funded.
The group said it hopes to receive donations in the form of nonperishable food, medical supplies, blankets, warm clothing and sanitary products.
After a week of accepting donations, six of the seven group members will make the 1,140-mile drive to the Sioux reservation nonstop by taking shifts.
They will distribute any supplies they have collected to native people and other members of the community upon arrival.
They will camp in tents with the protesters and document their stay to produce a final presentation that will include pictures, videos and interviews with fellow protesters.
Though there have been clashes between protesters and police throughout the course of the protest, the students said they are confident they will be safe during their stay, even though the closest ambulance is 45 minutes away and all doctors on-site are volunteers should the conflict turn violent.
Carl Ipsen, the president of Collins, approved the trip.
“Everybody’s been fully supportive,” Kuzbiel said. “It is an extreme trip and time crunch, but we are being responsible about it. We’re not going to cause a riot, we’re going for civil justice.”
After they return, the students said they hope to educate fellow students about the dangers of oil pipelines and connect environmental groups on campus that are against the DAPL.
“I didn’t realize that there was this big of a community supporting the protest of DAPL,” Gates said. “It’s pretty cool to see that action on campus.”
The students said they hope to coalesce environmental groups and coordinate one large education campaign against the pipeline.
“It is strange that there’s a lot of misconnection on campus. Because it’s so big, there’s a lot of people doing the same things,” Gates said. “I’m excited to see how many people we can connect when we come back.”
The students said they hope to inspire their fellow students to discover a passion and to achieve something tangible with their activism.
“Anybody can be an activist,” Kuzbiel said. “You can contribute to the greater good.”
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