Hofstra University’s Office of Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion (IEI) hosted a discussion regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline on Tuesday, Nov. 29 as part of its “Diversity, Dialogue and Dessert” series. The discussion, led by IEI Assistant Director Chad Freeman, was hosted in order to pay tribute to Native American Heritage Month this year.
The evening included a discussion about the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline which has drawn intense criticism from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, as well as how it poses a threat to the preservation of Native American life, culture and land, along with the environment.
Hofstra political science professor Linda Longmire, who’s from North Dakota herself, provided a unique perspective to the audience as she is somebody who not only was raised in the area of relevance, but she also recently returned to the state to participate in a peaceful protest against the pipeline initiatives.
Longmire described the construction of the pipeline as “distressing on many levels.” She conveyed a sense of admiration for the native people who, despite the opposition facing their cultural stability within the state, have strongly dedicated themselves to a non-violent objection.
Many students contributed valuable and thoughtful insight to the discussion, including sophomore and computer science major Anthony Minerva. “The pipeline itself is a power play by oil companies and by a dying industry; it’s something concrete and materialistic that will ultimately set back our progress with green energy,” Minerva said. “Not to mention the fact that talking about it addresses an internalized racism that exists as well as a disregard for certain lives, specifically Native American lives.”
There was a focus on the explicit boundaries of racism in today’s society which led to a spirited debate about the definition of racism itself and how it has expanded to include a broad range of discrimination. The group agreed that the negligence of the North Dakota government to consider the Native American perspective is deplorable. They came to the consensus that the location of the pipeline should be either moved or the construction itself should be postponed until a more sensible location is found.
The group was briefly sidetracked from the original topic of conversation to discuss the foundations of group dialogues and their importance within diverse communities like Hofstra.
Anna O’Brien, a sophomore psychology and art major, insists that the purpose of these collective discussions is not to somehow change the world from them, but to inspire activist efforts by informing those who may not already know about what exactly is going on within the global community.
“I think it’s very important to have these discussions in a place where all of our ideas can be heard and shared, and then turned into action,” she said. “I think that that’s the part that people forget about sometimes … We’re not just sitting around and talking about it and doing nothing, the point of these talks is to get inspired, to go do something afterwards. It all starts by talking to each other.”