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.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015


Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

GIF from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

And continues through adolescence, still through entertainment.

"I'd rather die than stay away from you."

GIF from "Twilight."

And then guess what happens? We're peddled some more of what we're supposedly meant to be aiming for when we're adults.

"I was the one girl he chose from 20 other girls to be with. Now I know I'm special!" — me, mocking probably very sweet people.

GIF from "The Bachelor."

There are so many examples of this, it's difficult to narrow them down. Not to mention all the social cues coming in all stealth-bomber-like to beat one's psyche into submission. Like when single people go to weddings, their family members casually ask them, "When will YOU settle down?" And when a friend goes through a breakup, it's almost instinctive to reassure them that there's someone out there for them.

But what if not everyone is supposed to pair off? What if some people are — wait for it — happier when they're single?

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cape Town City F.C./Facebook

Mateo Manousakis and the Cape Town City Football Club.

Mateo Manousakis is not your average soccer fan. From the time he was 4 or 5 years old and attending practices with Vasili Manousakis, his father who coaches in South Africa's Premier Soccer League, Mateo's passion for the game was apparent. But Vasili had no idea what a sensation his son would become.

Young Mateo has spent the past several years leading the Cape Town City Football Club in pregame chants and dances, and videos of him have gone viral. Few kids would have the gumption to serve as the front man for a professional sports team coming down the tunnel, and few teams would consider an 8- or 9-year-old such a part of the team that they happily follow his lead. But that's just what happened with Mateo at Cape Town City F.C.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” Vasili, who served as assistant coach for the team, told IOL in 2018. "I think, here at City, it’s just the amazing team spirit that took him in; he has the love and respect from the players, he can feel it, it’s real, and they always want to see him."

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Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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