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2,000-Mile Run for Clean Water Makes Ohio Pit Stops

39 Native American youths are running a long relay to protest a major oil pipeline. (Oceti Sakowin Youth)
39 Native American youths are running a long relay to protest a major oil pipeline. (Oceti Sakowin Youth)
August 2, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A 2,000-mile journey to fight for clean water and land is making its way through Ohio. Native American youths are running from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., to protest a pipeline that would cross several states and could threaten tribal lands. The Dakota Access Pipeline would stretch from North Dakota to Illinois, transporting 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Jasilyn Charger with the Oceti Sakowin Youth contends the pipeline threatens the health and safety of sacred tribal lands, water resources, farm land, ecosystems and wildlife. She's among the 39 kids who are making the journey to Washington DC.

"It's really about self-sacrifice, of giving our bodies and our legs and everything we have for our water, for our earth, our culture and our identity," she said. "Water is not a trademark, it's not an accessory, it is a necessity of life, it is the giver of life and we need to respect it as such."

The group is collecting signatures that will be delivered Saturday to the Army Corps of Engineers demanding the pipeline be stopped. Last week, a lawsuit was filed against the Corps by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North and South Dakota, claiming the agency violated the National Historic Preservation Act by issuing permits for the pipeline.

The run is getting some star power, as actress Shailene Woodley, known for the "Divergent" series, is joining the fight. She says too few people understand the oppression faced by Native Americans.

"It is our responsibility to learn the narrative in which Native Americans recall their own history and are walking their own history, and this is a beautiful opportunity for that," she said. "Because not only are we saying enough is enough to the fossil-fuel industry but we're saying enough is enough to silence. That's why this fight is so profound to me."

Clean water is a universal message that should be on everyone's radar, said Jen Miller, the director of the Sierra Club's Ohio Chapter. She noted Ohio has its own challenges with pipelines and other threats to the environment.

"Ohio has one of the largest carbon footprints in the states, and so when Ohio goes green it actually is a way of standing in solidarity with communities that are facing major threats from fossil fuel pollution," she said.

The runners were in Columbus on Monday and Cambridge, Ohio, is their next stop.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH