By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
TILTON — Jennifer Hyslop found much to admire in the water protection activists she met when she went to North Dakota last month to show support for those fighting to prevent an oil pipeline from being built which threatens the water supply of the Standing Rock Reservation, the Missouri River.
“It's like building a pipeline around Lake Winnipesaukee,” said Hyslop, who is the secretary of the Laconia Indian Historical Society, and felt motivated to make the trip in order to use her skills in photography and bring back video footage which would enable her to tell the story about what is happening.
“No one seems to be aware of what is happening there. I think it is important that we show support for this effort to protect the water and for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe,” said Hyslop.
She said she grew up attending the annual pow wows held by LIHA on Labor Day weekends in Sanbornton, and now works with the other members of the organization to try and keep Native American heritage and traditions alive, including respect for the earth and the environment.
On Nov. 15 she left Tilton with two friends, Kayla Lent and Amanda LeBrecque, and the trio drove for nearly 30 hours to reach Cannon Ball, North Dakota, a trip that covered 1,426 miles.
“Our Subaru was to packed to the max with donations, so much so that we had to strap some to the roof. I fund-raised over $700 and over $1,000 in donations on my own. Going to Oceti Sakowin was a life-changing event. I met many kind people and I have a lot I would like to share,” said Hyslop.
Before she arrived at the camp, she and her friends stopped to rest and celebrate the fact that they had reached South Dakota. She was so excited that they were nearing their goal that she did a little impromptu dance to celebrate and ended up landing awkwardly, breaking her left foot.
“At first I thought it was going to be all right. But a few hours later thee was a burning sensation and it was starting to swell, so I ended up going to a hospital and having a boot cast put on my foot,” said Hyslop, who was determined to complete her journey despite the pain and discomfort from the injured foot.
Once she told the nurses at the hospital where she was going, they expressed fear for her safety and told her to be careful.
“That really unsettled my friends, but at that point I had no fear. I was just proud of what we were doing and feeling very humble at the same time.
The one thing she noticed when she first arrived at the camp at Oceti Sakowin was how there was a law enforcement presence just about everywhere and how huge searchlights, trained on the camp, were on as soon as it got dark and stayed on throughout the night.
The effort to halt the pipeline has been in the national news for months and nearly 6,000 people have joined in the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the most recent being 2,000 military veterans who arrived last weekend in North Dakota. After the Standing Rock Sioux tribe lost its court battle seeking an injunction to stop construction, state authorities ordered them to leave the camp or face arrest. But as the deadline for leaving approached, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not permit an easement through federal land and temporarily halted the construction of the pipeline to allow an environmental impact review.
Hyslop was cheered by the news about the easement, but said she is concerned that Donald Trump will reverse the action next month after he becomes president. She said she will continue to try and explain how important it is to keep the pipeline, which will take crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, from being built.
She said that one of the most impressive people she met while in the camp was Lee Sprague, an instructor at the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, who stands nearly 7 feet tall and was teaching his fellow activists water rescue techniques which could be used in the river which passes through their camp.
“He's an amazing person and talked to us a lot about how deeply the Native Americans feel about the way the land and is being violated,” said Hyslop.
She said that shortly after they left on Nov. 18 to return to New Hampshire the canoes and boats that he had been using were stolen by private security guards hired by the company which is building the pipeline and taken to Turtle Island in the river, where they were smashed and dented and secured behind a razor-wire enclosure. Sprague eventually was able to cut the wire and bring back the canoes and boats, which had been rendered virtually useless, and that a fund drive has since been launched to replace the boats.
“It was an experience that I'll always remember. And I want to share it with as many people as I can who will listen,” said Hyslop, who is 22 and holds a degree in art education from Plymouth State University.
Kayla Lent, Amanda LeBrecque and Jennifer Hyslop stand with Lee Sprague, an instructor at the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, one of the water protectors engaged in a protest to prevent an oil pipeline from being built in North Dakota. (Courtesy photo)
Jennifer Hyslop, left, of Tilton returned recently from Standing Rock, North Dakota, where she joined with activists, shown in main photo, right, who are trying to prevent an oil pipeline from being built which threatens the water supply of the Standing Rock Reservation. She is on crutches after having broken her foot in an impromptu victory celebration after having arrived in North Dakota. (Courtesy photos)
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