7 jaw-dropping images from the ongoing pipeline protest in North Dakota.

Right now, more than 200 members of Native American tribes and their fellow activists are camping out near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

They've been there for months, and the protest is one of the biggest in Native American history. If you haven't been following the protests, though, let's get you up to speed:

Basically, a corporation called Energy Transfer Partners wants to build a big oil pipeline, stretching more than a thousand miles from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline would snake within a half-mile of the water supply that serves more than 9,000 Native Americans, and it could also disturb their sacred tribal lands.


When they heard about this, the Standing Rock Sioux filed suit against Energy Transfer Partners and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on the grounds they had disregarded both tribal treaties and U.S. environmental regulations. In late August 2016, this all came to a head during a weeklong standoff at the construction site, where Native American tribes came together with the Standing Rock Sioux in a way that hadn't been seen since the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

A federal court was expected to make a decision on Aug. 24, 2016, about whether the pipeline could continue being built. But then the judges postponed the decision for an extra two weeks.

They wanted to wait until Sept. 9, 2016, so they could have time to look over all the information. In the meantime, construction was expected to halt. As temporary as the victory was, things were cautiously looking up for the protesters and their land.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

While the tribes waited for the federal judges to make up their minds, they also discovered, and presented, some new information about the ancestral land they trying to protect.

According to tribal historians, several ancient and culturally important burial grounds and other sacred sites would be affected by the pipeline — including at least 27 burials, 16 stone rings, 19 effigies, and some other features too.

"These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced," said tribal chairman David Archambault II in a press release.

The tribes submitted their information to the court on the Friday before Labor Day — and the next morning, those same lands were already being razed by bulldozers from Energy Transfer Partners.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

When tribal protesters and other activists tried to stop the machines from destroying their land, though, they were allegedly greeted by private security guards armed with dogs and pepper spray.

Of course, the details of the incident change depending on who you ask. The Sacred Stone Camp claims at least six people were bitten by dogs, including a child and a pregnant woman, while about 30 more were pepper sprayed. Protesters shared photos and videos that appear to support these claims.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

However, Energy Transfer Partners basically responded with a "Nuh-uh! They started it!" placing the blame on the protesters for any violence that occurred.

And although local law enforcement was not present during the incident, the Morton County Sheriff's Office stated that "four private security guards and two guard dogs were injured," but they received no official reports of protesters being injured. The crowd dispersed when law enforcement officers arrived on the scene and no one was arrested.

Regardless of how the incident began, one thing is certain: It was a rough altercation. And it sums up just how messed up this whole situation has been from the start.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

Demolition continued through Labor Day weekend. But the battle wasn't over yet.

The Standing Rock Sioux filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order against the project, which was granted in part by a U.S. district court on Sept. 6, 2016. It will only last until the official court decision comes down at the end of the week, but at least it's something.

Even the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers — the other defendant in the case, alongside Energy Transfer Partners — supported the decision for the sake of public safety.

Unfortunately, though, that decision couldn't undo the damage already done on ancient Native American lands.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

"Imagine heavy machinery invading your family cemetery, plowing through graves, demolishing headstones, knocking down the church next door," Archambault wrote in an Op-Ed for The Hill. "Our people are heartbroken. Our history is destroyed. That ground is now hollow."

"Destroying the Tribe’s sacred places over a holiday weekend, while the judge is considering whether to block the pipeline, shows a flagrant disregard for the legal process," the tribe's attorney told Indian Country Today.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

Sadly, the bullying, strong-arming, and general disregard of Native American life and property is nothing new in the U.S.

But, at least this time, we have a chance to stop it before it gets even worse.

If you want to help the Standing Rock Sioux protect their lands — and stand up for the rights of Native Americans in general against big oil corporations — you can start by signing the official White House petition to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Sacred Stone Camp is also accepting donations of cash and supplies, which is particularly helpful, since many of them already live in poverty and state authorities have pulled water and other emergency resources from the protest site. You can also contribute directly to the tribe's legal defense fund or divest from any of the companies and banks who are currently supporting the pipeline's construction.

At the very least, you can help spread the word about the struggle, so that Energy Transfer Partners can't keep getting away with these kinds of actions.

In the words of the Standing Rock Sioux: "Water is life."

All Native Americans deserve to keep their rights to water and to life.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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