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:

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.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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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.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel.

A stranger knocked on the door of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday morning shortly before Shabbat service. It was 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, so Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, 46, made him a cup of tea. The rabbi and Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a British national, spoke for a few moments and then the rabbi went on to perform his regular 10 a.m. Shabbat prayers for his congregation.

When the rabbi turned his back to face Jerusalem, he heard a click come from the stranger. "And it turned out, that it was his gun," Cytron-Walker told CBS News.

Akram began screaming and a congregant, Jeffrey Cohen, the vice president of the synagogue's board of trustees, quickly pulled out his phone and dialed 911. A livestream broadcasting the prayer ceremony to congregants participating from home caught some of what Akram was shouting. "I'm gunned up. I'm ammo-ed up," he told someone he called nephew. "Guess what, I will die."

The FBI got word of the 911 call and quickly set up a perimeter around the synagogue. Akram took four people hostage, including the rabbi.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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