MAHWAH, N.J. – Days before the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not grant a permit for a controversial oil pipeline under the Missouri River, activists gathered in Mahwah to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and others fighting the pipeline.
“We have power in unity,” Betty Lyons, president and executive director of the American Indian Law Alliance, told the crowd packed into Ramapo College's Sharp Theater.
Lyons, a member of the Onondaga Nation, was part of a panel discussion that also included Ramapough Lunaape Nation Chief Dwaine Perry, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, and Shai Blackbird, a young member of the Lakota Nation.
The event – "Water is Life! From Standing Rock to Ramapough" – raised funds for the Standing Rock Sioux “water protectors” in North Dakota.
The protectors have been fighting to stop the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
The Ramapo forum also served as an opportunity to discuss the Pilgrim Pipelines. Those pipelines would pass through communities in Bergen and Passaic counties, including Mahwah, Oakland and Wanaque, according to the Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline (CAPP).
“The harder they push here for this pipeline, the harder we will push back,” Lyons said.
“The pilgrim pipeline, I know it can be stopped,” Hauter said.
A program handed out at the event stated that the Ramapough Lunaape Nation, located in North Jersey and New York, is in a situation similar to that of the Standing Rock Sioux.
“The Pilgrim Pipelines would send Bakken Shale oil and its refined products through dozens of municipalities in New York and New Jersey, threatening the health and safety of our communities, wetlands and natural habitats, and our drinking water,” it states.
According to the pamphlet, this is the same sludge that would run through the Dakota Access Pipeline, threatening the Sioux Nation’s source of drinking water and destroying sacred sites.
It reads, "The Pilgrim Pipelines would similarly demolish Ramapough sacred lands and threaten the drinking water for millions in the region.”
“We must stand in unity,” Chief Perry told the crowd.
“Regardless of who you are, what you are, what you think you are, you still need to drink water,” he added.