Four Native youth stand, some are smiling some are serious.

13 year-old girl from Standing Rock Tribe stands up to proposed oil pipeline

Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer and thirty young people from the Standing Rock Reservation are campaigning to stop a pipeline they say will leak into their water. In the few weeks since they started it, over 70,000 people have signed their (where full disclosure, I work) petition and a string of celebrities have endorsed it over social media. 

If approved, this pipeline would carry 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day across four states and cross the Missouri River less than a mile away from the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. The possibility of leaks pose a dangerous threat to the community’s drinking water, says Anna. “It’s not if it leaks but when it leaks,” she says. “All pipelines leak.”

North Dakota has certainly seen its fair share of pipeline leaks: from 2012-2013 alone, there were 300 oil pipeline breaks in the state. Just last month, South Dakota experienced its worst oil leak yet when Transcanada’s Keystone I pipeline spilled nearly 17,000 gallons of oil, and Truthout reports that in spite of previous safety assurances, the company struggled to find the cause of the spill. Dakota Access LLC has made similar promises about the safety of this proposed pipeline, but the Standing Rock Youth aren’t buying it.

Pollution isn’t the only threat that comes with projects like these. From the Belo Monte dam in Brazil to the Bakken Oil patch in North Dakota, development projects on rural and Native land often lead to an increase in violence against indigenous women. “I can only guess that the oil industry keeps pushing for it because they don’t care about our health and safety,” Anna says in her petition. “It’s like they think our lives are more expendable than others’.”

Luckily Anna and the Standing Rock Youth aren’t the only ones pushing back. Just a few weeks ago, a group of Native and non-Native runners finished a 500-mile relay race to deliver signatures to the Army Corps of Engineers in Nebraska, and other Standing Rock members have set up a Spirit Camp at the mouth of the Cannonball River to protest the project. The campaign continues to draw media attention and endorsements from celebrities and activists like Leonardo DiCaprio, Shailene Woodley, Cameron Russell, Bill McKibben and Ezra Miller.

The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to announce any day now whether they will grant a permit for the construction of the pipeline. In the meantime, Anna and the Standing Rock Youth will keep campaigning to demand “rezpect” for their water and home.


Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

Read more about Juliana

Join the Conversation