Kate Nash, KT Tunstall, And Other Musicians On Why They’re Fighting Against The DAPL

Solidarity with Standing Rock

by Dannielle Owens-Reid

"We stand in solidarity with all water protectors. We are demanding the Obama administration do the just thing and defend the sovereignty of indigenous peoples by intervening in the construction of the DAPL. At this critical juncture in the fight against climate change, we must take action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and instead focus on the development of ethical and renewable alternatives.” —Alexis Krauss, Sleigh Bells

The current fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is undoubtedly one of the most important fights of our time. Its key elements revolve around ongoing problems in our society, including important issues like environmental sanctity, the rights of marginalized people, and the unjust supremacy of big business. 

For those unaware of the fight against the DAPL, here's a little backstory: Construction has almost finished on a 1,200-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline built by Energy Transfer Partners that will carry crude oil between from North Dakota to Illinois, which will, in part, run beneath the Missouri River in North Dakota. Pipelines—including the ones built by this company—burst, crack, and leak all too often. When that happens, the water or land surrounding that pipeline is often rendered useless and is undeniably compromised; in fact, it is poisoned. What's more, the Missouri River is the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. 

The tribe's fight against the DAPL began in 2014 but received little major media coverage until relatively recently. The past few months the movement has grown exponentially, both in terms of media coverage and because people with massive influence have started speaking out. Shailene Woodley has spearheaded, spoken, and shown up for countless rallies and protests; other celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo, Rosario Dawson, Vic Mensa, and Josh Fox have all been extremely active. In recent weeks, things have become increasingly violent, with police in North Dakota attacking water protectors and journalists with chemical weapons, rubber bullets, water cannons, and dogs.

Los Angeles-based, U.K.-born musician Kate Nash has been outspoken about the madness at Standing Rock for the past few months and organized what can only be described as an absolute outpouring of support from the music community with today's release of an open letter to President Obama about the DAPL. Nash says, “I think people in the spotlight [have been] afraid of being seen as too political and being extreme and becoming unrelatable and a drag; being educated and outspoken is not so trendy. But with Trump in power, it is more important than ever that those with influential power use their voices and spread awareness.” 

Musician KT Tunstall says, “I am appalled at what we are seeing at Standing Rock: a militarized police force abusing [water protectors] and legal guardians of the land; a police force which is seemingly working on behalf of an oil company, Energy Transfer Partners—which President-Elect Donald Trump has stakes in—that seeks to blight that land, rather than protecting their local community. I stand with those at Standing Rock.”

Emma Robbins, the American Project Director of Dig Deep and The Navajo Water Project, is Navajo herself and has been to Standing Rock off and on since September 13. She arrived again two days ago and had much to say about the use of social media in this fight: “If it weren't for Facebook or Instagram, I, and many people I know, would be in the dark about the insane amount of history-changing events that are taking place every day at Standing Rock.” Emma is just off of the reservation right now, acquiring Wi-Fi where she can as a snowstorm has knocked out all cell service on the reservation.  

Robbins tells me, “On the night of November 20, as many water protectors were being violently harmed by the Morton County Sheriffs Department, I watched as many Facebook Live videos as I could for hours and hours. I clicked back and forth on different major news networks' pages and saw nothing being reported. Had it not been for these videos, I wouldn't have known for hours, if not days, about the water cannons and chemical weapons being released onto the unarmed and peaceful. I have a list of Facebook pages and Instagram accounts I hit up daily, like Unicorn Riot and Indigenous Environmental Network, where I get a ton of info. I have to say, though, major shout-out to Dallas Goldtooth; he keeps EVERYONE updated.“

Social media is giving us the ability to connect and learn from each other and discover things we might not otherwise see. Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast chimes in, “Using my platform is important to me because I know there are people watching and listening. If I am able to help one person out of 10 that sees something I say, then I feel like I've done my part. Having a voice, to me, means not being afraid to talk about the real issues. If I lose fans because I'm opinionated, whatever; it's important to me to fight for what I believe in.” 

Liz Nistico of HOLYCHILD shares that sentiment, “It's necessary for all of us to do our part to make this world a better place. Maybe that sounds cheesy, but we all know it's true. As a musician and a person with a social platform, I would not be able to live with myself if I didn't publicly stand up for what I believe in. The future still hasn't gotten away from us! There's still time to reform, and I'm inspired by the revolution that is finally upon us.”

Nick Petricca of Walk the Moon agrees: "In times like these, it’s essential that the people who care about what’s going on make themselves known. For a million others who may not have the platform, the words, or the voice, it lets them know they are not alone. There is a huge community of human beings who give a damn and are willing to take a stand for the great absolute truth; we are all connected."

Djali Eagle Cepeda is raising funds to buy 10 winter shelters complete with heating units and stoves to accommodate 10 to 12 people per shelter for Christmas this year. Dominican, black, and Native American, Cepeda says that fighting for Native rights has always been a part of her life. “Since I've grown up going to and dancing in powwows and had the privilege of growing up being taught the right history of the Americas, it's second nature to me to fight for Native rights,” she says. “I actually come from a very strong line of women in my family who fought for social justice. My mom led tons of marches and rallies and touches on social issues in all her work; she's a documentary filmmaker and author. My paternal grandma marched and did all that too in the '60s. And my great grandma actively fought against the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic.” 

Nash says, “I guess, on a very basic level, my parents taught me the importance of using my voice and having an opinion and also being kind and standing up for what is right from a young age. That has stuck with me. I have taken the responsibility of having a platform very seriously from the beginning of my career. I noticed that there really wasn't much media coverage regarding the DAPL and Standing Rock and I found this to be extremely frustrating and upsetting as police tactics became increasingly aggressive. If I can do anything to elevate the people at Standing Rock, then I feel it is my duty not as a musician but simply as a human to do so. Having a music career gives me the privilege of being able to get my voice heard.”