Mni Wiconi means “Water is Life,” and it’s the reason thousands of people have gathered to stand in solidarity with the water protectors near the Standing Rock Reservation in Cannonball, ND. The protectors’ camps, Oceti Sakowin, Red Warrior, Rosebud, and Sacred Stone were erected as a direct response to the Energy Transfer Partners’ plans to construct an oil pipeline through the Missouri River—their primary water source.

The movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline or, on social media #NoDAPL, has been a Native-led, organized effort. Indigenous activists, lawyers, and media have taken to social media so make people aware of the civil rights violations happening under the watchful eye of the North Dakota Governor and the Morton County Police Department.

Although #NoDAPL is miles away in another state, Montanans feel very passionate in showing solidarity with them. Here are a few events that ACLU of Montana has been involved in:

In October, in partnership with The Montana Racial Equity Project based in Bozeman, we organized “Montana Stands with Standing Rock,” an event at the Headwaters of the Missouri River. Indigenous leaders prayed and blessed the headwaters and Indigenous activists and community leaders emphasized that the responsibility of every Montanan is to protect the environment, Native cultures, and Native languages, and to offer support to our neighbors.

In November, we partnered with the Native American Race Relations + Healing Coalition based in Billings, Montana. Native activists, writers, and scholars presented information on #NoDAPL as well as condemning police brutality and calling for Montanans to uphold constitutional rights.

Finally, also in November, two staff members -Advocacy and Policy Director, SK Rossi, and Indigenous Justice Coordinator, Meg Singer- traveled to Cannonball, ND. It is the home of the Standing Rock Sioux, who are hosts to the Oceti Sakowin Camp. Rossi and Meg worked with staff from several other ACLU affiliates including South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wyoming.  ACLU staff offered support as legal observers during peaceful marches on public land near Cannonball and Mandan, ND. ACLU-MT worked with the Water Protector Legal Collective, formerly known as the Red Owl Legal Collective, in their efforts to gather information on civil rights violations.

#NoDAPL organizing has included rallies and marches in Helena, Missoula, Great Falls, Billings, and Bozeman. Montana continues to support the constitutional rights of the water protectors. For many in Montana, the issues closest to our hearts involve ensuring that Big Sky Country is a place of freedom and justice.