As part of Earthstock, environmental activists and indigenous people performed a concert, titled “Roadshow of Resistance: Saving the Planet, Indigenous Rights and Standing Rock,” in the Student Activities Center Auditorium on April 20.
“Roadshow of Resistance” provided opportunities for people to help fight attacks on the environment, species extinction and pipeline expansion while advocating for indigenous people’s rights. Speakers discussed the importance of sustainability and how humans must take care of the earth’s waters and lands like the indigenous have done for many years. This performance comes after the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will run through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
Mother and daughter Denise and Kelly Silva-Dennis of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, a Native American tribe based in Southampton, kicked off the event with what they described as a corn planting dance, in which they sang and shook gourd rattles while stomping their feet to the rhythm of the music.
Jeffrey Levinton, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, then awarded the Jeffrey Eng Memorial Scholarship in Environmental Sciences to Alfredo Esposito, a junior marine vertebrate biology major. The scholarship is awarded to an undergraduate student studying in any of the environmental sciences at the university who shows academic excellence and promise.
“Winning this means that people are truly aware of the environment,” Esposito said. “For me it isn’t important that I won it; I think the true victory is that people are hopeful for the future and it makes those that dedicate their time know that there are people that not only support environmental work but are willing to invest in it as well.”
Native American poet Lyla June, of Diné and Tsétsêhéstâhese ancestry, performed various styles of music and poems. June, a graduate from Stanford University with a major in environmental anthropology, has fought back against those who harm the environment and indigenous people’s lands.
In January, June took part in a 1000-mile prayer walk through Dinetah, a large area in the southwestern U.S., to raise awareness for the exploitation of Diné land by the mining industry. She is also the co-founder of the Taos Peace and Reconciliation Council, an organization that works to end ethnic division in northern New Mexico.
“We are all people of the earth,” June said. “We don’t own the earth. We can pretend we do, but we don’t and never will.”
Beginning her performance, June beatboxed lyrics depicting how the youth must come together and fight for the Earth. She followed with a poem that discussed how women are essential to life.
“A nation has not been defeated until the hearts of the women are on the ground,” she said.
Finishing her performance in tears, June played a drum and sang an emotional song about the millions of women who were killed between the 13th and 17th centuries in Europe for being witches.
“I really liked the drumming of Lyla June,” Connie Tao, a freshman computer science major, said. “Her voice and the rhythm of her beating the drum was very mesmerizing.”
Casey Neill, a songwriter from Portland, Oregon, followed June’s performance by playing high-energy indie folk anthems discussing the need for social change. He played the guitar to accompany his powerful voice that echoed throughout the auditorium.
“He had an amazing guitar solo, and I really enjoyed their performances, which shocked me since I don’t usually listen to this genre or style of music,” Tao said.
The event ended with Cheryl Angel, a Lakota elder from the Sicangu tribe in South Dakota that has been fighting to stop the Keystone XL pipeline construction at Standing Rock. Cheryl spoke about her activist roots, specifically how she protested the death penalty outside government buildings near her home in South Dakota. From there, she began to fight for water, calling herself a water protector because “water is life.”
“When she mentioned how she drank any water that was given to her, it made me think of how much water we waste,” Serafina Margono, a senior environmental biology and sustainability studies major, said. “Every drop of water counts especially when your water is poisoned and fresh water is precious.”
The event was one of several Earthstock events in which students and faculty were able to join a growing movement of support for the planet and indigenous people. The events teach and aid in understanding the responsibilities all humans have in order to protect and save the environment for future generations.