What you should know about the historic Native American battle happening now.

It's the summer of 2016, and thousands of American Indians from the northern Great Plains just came together to protect their sacred land ... again.

If this scene sounds familiar, that's because it is. During the Great Sioux War of 1876, a united legion of Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho stood their ground near a river against a U.S. Army regiment led by Col. George A. Custer. American Indians called it the Battle of Greasy Grass or Victory Day, but U.S. history books tend to remember the Battle of the Little Bighorn as Custer's Last Stand.

Photo by Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP.


This time, however, American Indians are not fighting against military occupation. They're fighting against an oil pipeline, for the sake of water.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a proposed $3.7 billion project, spanning more than a thousand miles from North Dakota to Illinois. If completed, it would be the largest crude oil line in the region — just seven miles shorter than the failed Keystone XL project — with the capacity to transport nearly half a million barrels of oil a day.

The pipeline was originally going to cross the Missouri River just north of Bismarck. But North Dakota citizens were worried about the potential damage to their water supply, so the pipeline was rerouted.

Under the new plan, the pipeline would cross the river less than one mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

Never mind the fact that the United States has abused and pushed American Indians onto reservations that represent just a fraction of their ancestral property. Nearly half of the 9,000 people living on that 3,500-square-mile reservation live in poverty today.

They all rely on the river's water for nourishment and survival, not to mention its cultural and religious importance. Construction of the pipeline would also disturb sacred grounds and burial sites in the area.

"Our state of being is not our fault. ... And now again, even what little we have left is under attack," Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement. "To poison the water, is to poison the substance of life. Everything that moves must have water."

Photo by Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP.

"This pipeline’s construction is being carried out without the Tribe’s free, prior and informed consent," the tribal council wrote in an appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Standing Rock Sioux, along with other tribes in the area, first tried to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They also collected more than 200,000 petition signatures demanding an end to the construction.

When the petition didn't work, the Standing Rock Sioux turned to the United Nations for help, citing human rights violations infringing on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Legal processes take time, however. So while the tribes were granted a hearing in Washington, D.C., their court date wasn't scheduled until Aug. 24 — two weeks after construction was slated to begin.

Despite the Standing Rock Sioux's best efforts, ground was broken on the Dakota Access Pipeline on Aug. 10.

But that was about as far as the project got.

Photo by Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP.

The Standing Rock Sioux decided to protest. It started as a small prayer camp of about 50 people, some of whom had been there since April.

Within a week of the project's groundbreaking, the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, had swelled to more than 1,000 protesters, including members of more than 80 tribes from across the country, along with other non-Native activists. By the time the court date rolled around, estimates of the protesters' numbers rose as high as 4,000.

The company behind the pipeline was, obviously, less than thrilled. At first, it sought a restraining order to quell the demonstration, but eventually it agreed to halt the project until the court decision could be made.

As inspiring as it is to see so many people come together to help protect the planet, the state's response to the halted project was ... less than great.

The closest the protest ever came to conflict were a few traditional mock charges performed on horseback to hold back the police line. But no violence occurred.

Unfortunately, this was not enough to sate the concerns of the police and other authorities, who, protesters say, mistook their sacred ceremonial pipes for pipe bombs, and alleged that a protester shined a laser pointer at a surveillance aircraft that was flying overhead, among over accusations.

More than 20 arrests were made, and North Dakota state officials used emergency relief funds to remove drinking water and other resources from the protest site.

By the time the federal court date rolled around on Aug. 24, another protest movement had formed in Washington, D.C.

The court session ultimately ended with no decision and a date to reconvene in September.  So the outcome is still unwritten.

It was a frustrating result after weeks of mounting tension. But it means that all is not lost, and that there is still hope to save the Standing Rock Sioux's land. Construction at the protest site will supposedly continue to be halted, although it's not clear if that will be case for other parts of the projected pipeline path.

Meanwhile, human rights observers from Amnesty International announced they would be standing watch at the Sacred Stone Camp to ensure there were no more brutal police oversights depriving protesters of their legal rights to water or to assembly.

It's a small victory. But in a battle this big, it's better than nothing.

Environmental preservation isn't just an American Indian issue, of course. And it's not just about oil and water.

The future of the planet affects all of us, which is why this protest movement is so important. 2016 is already well on track to supplant 2015 as the warmest year on record, and the heat is only turning up from here.

As Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement: "This is not just a Lakota/Dakota issue, this is a human issue. ... We have to speak for those who are not here — our ancestors, for those children who are not yet born. Our ancestors left sacred sites for us. We have to speak for them. Children not yet born will not live without water."

I was taught to leave things better than I found them. We need to take action soon, or we'll be leaving a disaster behind for the generations to follow.

Learn more about the struggles at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation straight from the protest lines in this video:

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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Over the past 30-plus years, there has been a sea change when it comes to public attitudes about LGBT issues in America. In 1988, only 11% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, while in 2020, that number jumped to 70%

Even though there is a lot more work to do for full LGBTQ equality in the U.S. the country is far ahead of most of the world. According to Human Dignity Trust, 71 jurisdictions around the world "criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity," many of these specifically calling out sexual practices between men.

In 11 jurisdictions, people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual activity face the possibility of the death penalty for their behavior. "At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE," Human Dignity Trust says.

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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!