A side-by-side comparison of the Dakota pipeline protest and Oregon militant verdicts.

The concurrent events of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge verdict on Oct. 27, 2016, shed light on our country's history of scrappy rebel underdogs, land disputes, and inequality.

On the same day Native American protesters in North Dakota were attacked by police armed with LRAD sound cannons for standing up to a private oil corporation, a group of insurgent ranchers calling themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom (C4CF) were acquitted on federal charges after taking up arms and occupying government property in Oregon.

These two different groups of people each fought back against some incarnation of The Man, but with very different results.


To understand the irony of this, let's take a step-by-step look at the motivations for, and responses to, each occupation.

Ron His Horse Is Thunder (left), a spokesman for the Standing Rock Sioux; George Stanek, a member of the Malheur militants. Photos by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images and Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The inciting incident of both occupations was a dispute over land rights — each with its own unique and complicated history.

The occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was a retaliation for what the ranchers saw as unfair charges in an arson case — not a contestation of guilt, but a protest that the government shouldn't have re-jailed the arsonists because of its own minimum-sentencing error. (The arsonists, however, rejected the Malheur occupation.)

The conflict with the Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota has to do with an in-progress oil pipeline that could threaten the water supply for thousands of people. It also risks desecrating sacred tribal sites that they argued should have been protected by an oft-ignored treaty from 1851.

Citizens for Constitutional Freedom leader Ammon Bundy. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Religious freedom is a tenet of American culture, and the actions of both groups were certainly influenced by their religious affiliations.

C4CF is led by Ammon Bundy, a Mormon whose family has a history of insurrection against the federal government. He claimed to be acting under divine orders.

The Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes that joined in their protest also engaged in religious practices, such as prayer circles and ceremonial pipes. Unfortunately, authorities allegedly interpreted these rituals as threats on more than one occasion.

Photo by Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP.

The tribes in North Dakota employed various means of nonviolent protest. C4CF, on the other hand, didn't hesitate to escalate the situation with firearms — and, sadly, they were treated more civilly than the tribes.

Oregon authorities even offered to protect C4CF if they left the wildlife refuge.

Bundy met on numerous occasions with both local sheriffs and FBI agents looking to negotiate a cease-fire or a peaceful transfer of power. During the occupation, militants were allowed to come and go from the refuge and even held a press conference on the premises.

It was several weeks before federal agents put a plan into action to arrest any of the C4CF occupiers. No shots were fired, and no force was used from Jan. 4 through Jan. 26, 2016, when LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed (the circumstances of which are still unclear).

LaVoy Finicum disabling a security camera at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the occupation. Photo by Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images.

The Native American protesters, on the other hand, endured repeated assaults from public and private police forces as they pursued legal action.

While some members of the tribes tried to settle the dispute in court, others attempted to stand their ground at the actual site where the company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, continued demolition and construction despite the requests from several federal organizations to stop. Several sacred sites were destroyed in the process.

North Dakota state authorities stripped the tribes of water and other emergency relief aids. On numerous occasions, tribal members were pepper-sprayed and threatened with assault by private security armed with attack dogs. Horses were killed, people were injured and shot with rubber bullets, and hundreds were arrested — including several journalists, one of whom is facing felony charges and up to 45 years in prison.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

C4CF was in direct conflict with the government. The Standing Rock Sioux, a sovereign nation, was fighting a private corporation and the public authorities who took its side.

Whether one agrees with the Bundy clan or not, there is certainly an established history of people battling government tyranny. And whether they win or lose, the consequences tend to be significant.

The situation in North Dakota, however, is a harrowing example of special interests taking precedence, where state authorities are used as the enforcers of a private company against the people.

If that scares you, well, it should. A group of armed rebels rising up against the state is very different from marginalized people trying to stop a for-profit company from further hurting them.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

The Native Americans took a stand when diplomacy failed and were bullied just as they've been throughout history. But the white guys who aimed guns at the government walked away scot-free.

In his testimony, Bundy invoked some familiar rhetoric. "It’s for my children, grandchildren," he said. "Everything comes from the Earth, and if [the government] can get control of the resources, they can get control of the people."

That's not so different from the language Native Americans have used time and time again to assert and defend their ancestral homes.

Native Americans protesting the Bundy militants. Photo by Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images.

Whatever claims might be valid in their grievances, Bundy and his fellow Malheur mutineers still enjoy the perks of white privilege.

Meanwhile, Native Americans continue to suffer, fighting the exact same fight that they've been fighting for hundreds of years against a system that still won't bestow the same freedoms on them.

That's not the same at all.

via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

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via Kat Stickler / TikTok

Kat Stickler has created a hilarious series of videos about her husband that a lot of women say they can relate to because theirs behave the exact same way.

Stickler is a mother who shares funny videos about her domestic life on TikTok where she's earned over six million followers.

In the videos, she transforms into her husband Mike by throwing on a backward baseball cap and adopting a deeper voice. From the videos, it's pretty clear that Mike always wants some sort of praise for doing the things he's supposed to do.

The interesting thing about the couple is that they went from dating to parents pretty much overnight. Three months after their first date, Kat was pregnant and they were married.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."