THE BLOG
09/29/2016 03:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Chicagoans Stand Behind Standing Rock's Fight Against Dakota Access Pipeline

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At the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota, thousands of people representing more than 300 native tribes continue their fight against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. If constructed, the pipeline will cross the Missouri River, a source of drinking water for millions of people on and off tribal lands.

Despite temperatures in the low 40s at night, attacks from security dogs, and dozens of arrests, the people refuse to give up. They're not alone.

Across the country yesterday, thousands of people who aren't able to join the fight at Standing Rock--located an hour south of Bismarck, North Dakota--instead joined together wherever they could. More than 150 cities coast to coast hosted events to stand with those on the front lines of what has evolved into a battle for safe drinking water as well as Native American rights.

Those gatherings of support included a rally in Washington D.C., where Sen. Bernie Sanders called on President Obama to take action against the pipeline's construction.

"Today we stand united in saying stop the pipeline. Respect Native American rights. We cannot allow our drinking water to be poisoned so that a handful of fossil fuel companies can make even more in profits," Sen. Sanders said at the rally outside the White House.

Hours later in Chicago, more than 100 supporters gathered at the shores of Lake Michigan. Chicago resident Jane Albright organized the event with promotional support from Sierra Club and CREDO. People met at 7 p.m. at the totem pole at Addison Street and Lakeshore Drive. They then walked by candlelight along the lakeshore.

Prior to the event, Albright sent prayer ties and care packages to the Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock, including a package for the young girl bitten by a security dog earlier this month. Still, Albright said she felt called to do more.

"What I really want the people to know as they're on the frontline is how deeply we feel them and how we so clearly see all the wrongs that are being done," Albright said.

Wiyaka Eagleman, a Sicangu Lakota native from Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, has been at the camp since April. He said he felt good about the solidarity shown during Tuesday's day of action. "It's pretty awesome that people are waking up. We need to stay united, work together, and be able to help each other."

As the sun set in Chicago, Singing Man, a Southern Arapahoe from Oklahoma, stood before the crowd in a black cowboy hat, vest, and jeans. With a calm, steady voice, he set the intentions for Tuesday night's gathering.

"Would you poison your own mother?" He asked. "We're poisoning her. She's getting very ill. She's starting to run a temperature now. Please, when you go home tonight, think about Mother Earth and how we can help her."

A therapist and proud Vietnam War veteran, Singing Man said he has had to fight for the U.S. before and encouraged attendees to keep this fight peaceful.

"You can say more in a peaceful way than you can with violence," he said.

The crowd listened. After walking for a quarter mile along the lakefront, they stopped for a ceremony at the water's edge. Supporters held stones, and after individually saying a silent prayer or well wish for the people at Standing Rock's Sacred Stone Camp, threw the stone into the lake.

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"I hope they feel the support and prayers from us," Singing Man said after the ceremony. "I hope it will move the right people to do the right things. All nations have had so many things done against them--it's time for us all to unite."

Albright added that she hopes the pipeline protests happening in Chicago specifically, including the hundreds who marched downtown last week, will get the president's attention.

"President Obama, we need your help. Policymakers, we need your help. And we need it now," she said.

Back at the Standing Rock camp, Eagleman is taking things a day at a time as fall closes in and threats from law enforcement escalate. "I encourage you, if you want to stop in, to pay a visit. It's beautiful here," he said.

For the latest on the Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock, visit the camp's Facebook page. You can also follow events as they unfold under the hashtag #NODAPL on Twitter and Instagram.