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Saturday was National Public Lands Day, which meant free admission to Colonial National Historic Park and Historic Jamestowne. Local activists took the opportunity to highlight modern struggles faced by Native American tribes by staging a protest at the site of the first English settlement in North America.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is an ongoing construction project that will transport light sweet crude oil from production areas in North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The construction route of the pipeline has been the site of protests, as its route runs through burial areas and other locations sacred to Native American tribes. Protesters also worry that the pipeline will pollute water supplies.
The Hampton Roads Justice Network, an alliance of local activists, organized a protest Saturday at the entrance of Historic Jamestowne to raise awareness for and show solidarity with protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Roughly 40 protesters met under a tall tree at the side of the Colonial Parkway, near the entrance of Historic Jamestowne. They held signs, sold buttons, shared pizza and passed around a microphone to voice their reasons for attending and their input on how to make change.
“We need people to hear our problems,” said protester James Bond, a Newport News resident and Native American. “We need people to know that our rights are being infringed.”
Since April, thousands of protesters from tribes across the United States have joined forces with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s attempt to halt the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. The groups have rallied under the hashtag #NoDAPL. Bond visited the camp in Standing Rock earlier this month, and said he attended Saturday’s event to share his first-hand experience with Virginia activists.
“The more people we can get to stand in solidarity, the more power we have as a people,” said Bond.
Some of Saturday’s protesters held signs to bring attention to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will run from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina. The ACP will include a 70-mile pipeline that will bring natural gas to Hampton Roads. The project is expected to be completed by 2018.
“We’re going to have our own trouble with a pipeline,” said event organizer Justin Davila. “What’s happening there will be happening here.”
“The fact that we are about to have a pipeline through here, who better to stand in solidarity than us?” said Davila.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was proposed by Dominion Power and is a joint venture with Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources. Dominion did not respond to a request for comment on the protest.
Protesters agreed that while there are many potential avenues for action, raising awareness is of primary concern.
“We have people driving by and they’re seeing signs that say ‘No DAPL,’ that has to be enough to get people to ask what we’re talking about,” said Bond. “It was good to see people come together and listen to one another. I’d like to see more protests like this. This was a peaceful protest.”