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:

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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