Photo by Standing Rock Youth Council

By Musa Hasan, age 12

Several dozen Indigenous youth, some as young as 9 years old, from Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Reservation ran 93 miles to put pressure on President Biden to close the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The event took place on Feb. 9, 2021, in sub-zero temperatures, starting in Timber Lake, South Dakota, and ending at the Cannonball River in North Dakota. 

The Dakota Access Pipeline is an oil pipeline located in South and North Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. Construction on the 1,172-mile-long pipeline began in June 2016 and ended in April 2017. The Dakota Access Pipeline is controversial for many reasons, including the potential contamination of drinking water in the surrounding reservations. The youth protested to put pressure on Biden to close the pipeline for good. 

There were two similar runs in 2016 protesting the pipeline. “A group of us youth from the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Nations had the courage and were brave enough to stand up to the DAPL that was going to cross our lands, threatening not only our drinking water supply but the land we have called home for generations,” Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer, Standing Rock Sioux Youth Council vice president, said in a statement announcing one of the runs back in 2016. Now the youth are standing up again.

On Jan. 26, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling that construction of DAPL violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said, “[The youth] are running because of one simple fact: DAPL is an illegal pipeline.”

Despite the fact that the DAPL has now been ruled illegal, it remains open.