Although it has taken many months to gain traction on regular news media outlets, the general public is finally becoming aware of the construction of a massive oil pipeline being built to bring crude oil from North Dakota all the way to Illinois. The controversial project has stalled where it is supposed to cross the Missouri River, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where over 100 Native American tribes, along with many supporters, have come together to protect the water, both for their own people, and the millions of people downstream who depend on this water source. Among the supporters is Cedarburg native and CHS graduate, Alex Kubala, who has been "Standing with Standing Rock" since July at the Oceti Sakowin Camp.
Alex's relationship with the Native tribes began years ago with his interest in herbal medicine, which led him to study with Native healers throughout the US, as well as in Mexico. "He was even adopted as a nephew into an Anishinaabe tribe in Wausau," said Alex's father, Tom Kubala, of Kubala Washatko Architects in Cedarburg. "He's a remarkable kid." Tom and his wife, Patty, still reside in the house Alex and his father built on Columbia Road in Cedarburg.
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL, as it is called) is being built by a company called Energy Transfer Partners, and was originally proposed to go through Bismarck, North Dakota; however, residents of the community did not want the possibility of their water being contaminated; a valid concern, considering there have been 5 massive pipeline leaks or explosions in our country in the past 6 years, and thousands of minor leaks, costing billions in cleanup and untold environmental damage. Instead, the pipeline was rerouted through the Sioux's treaty land, without the consent of the tribe. In response, Native tribes and supporters from across the country gathered at the construction site, forming a camp they've named the Sacred Stone Camp, in an attempt to block the construction, and causing friction between pipeline workers and water protectors. Then, on Thursday, October 27th, a group of around 200 militarized police forced their way into the camp and began to arrest water protectors; Alex was among them.
"I was standing in a prayer circle," explained Alex, "and the police came through the front lines. They struck me with a baton and pulled me behind their line; hog-tied me, stole my shoes and necklaces, and brought us in." Alex's hand was broken during the arrest, but he was put in jail without treatment, along with about 140 others who are now facing felony charges of conspiracy to endanger by fire, engaging in a riot, and being a public nuisance. Thankfully, an anonymous donor paid the bail for all 140 water protectors, and Alex was able to return to the camp.
"We feared something like that might happen," said Tom. "We didn't hear about it until three days after he was released. You can imagine how that felt, as his parents, to hear what had happened."
Alex insists that he will remain at the camp until the end. "They need to be held accountable," Alex said of the police, government, and the company behind the project. "They're basically acting like a police state. This is treaty land, and they need to acknowledge that."
Earlier this week, President Obama put a halt to construction in order to give time to review the project, though water protectors fear that Energy Transfer Partners may continue the construction without permission, as they are contractually obligated to complete the pipeline by the end of the year. The construction delays have cost the company millions, already; should it continue to be delayed into the new year, it is expected that the project will be abandoned. In the meantime, the Sacred Stone Camp continues to grow, and protests are erupting across the country on a scale that can no longer be ignored. Standing Rock has become a symbol of Native, environmental, and minority justice.
Winter is descending on Standing Rock, and the water protectors could use items such as sleeping bags for extreme cold and wool hats, gloves, and blankets; see the Sacred Stone Camp Amazon Wish List for a full listing. If you would like to make a monetary donation to Alex's camp, click here.
"Alex was a troublemaker when he was young," Tom said. "He doesn't back down; he never has, but he's a become a very respectful, prayerful, and resourceful person. I love my son."