Lakehead artist Blake Evans visits North Dakota and performs art piece on the No DAPL movement.
By Ashley Aalto, Staff Writer
It has been months and protests still stand against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline that will run from North Dakota to Illinois. However, the construction has had complications, as it will destroy a sacred indigenous ancestral burial ground. Because of this, many indigenous people have been leading protests in order to preserve their land. The media has been presenting videos that portray the protests as violent, but Blake Evans, a Lakehead University student who took part in the protest says his experience was quite different than what the media shows.
Blake feels passionately about the movement and decided to take it upon himself to get involved. He used his own resources and travelled to Standing Rock to learn more about the community of the indigenous people, to experience the movement for himself, and to spread awareness through his artwork. He claims that a lot of what is shown in the media is an extreme representation of what is actually happening. “I was expecting to fear for my life because the media shows things like being tear gassed and such. I had an action plan before I even got there and I thought I would have to be careful about what I say and who we tell that we are Canadian and how I dress.”
Blake’s experience did not go as expected. “It was a peaceful camp and that everything done there was ceremonial. From the time you arrive there to the time you leave it’s about respect for the land. A lot of the white people that are there for action want to protest, get arrested and do violent things that get in the police’s face, they are the ones that get in the media because that’s what the rest of the world wants to see. They want to see people get arrested and fighting, but that’s not what the indigenous people’s intent is. Their intent is to just sit with everybody, pray, and think about the water and mother earth and the balance between nature and human life.” Blake says. “It also really touches me when the police officers accepted the water that we brought for them. Even if they didn’t drink it, they touched it and held it to their heart as a way of being thankful. Everything in the media is wrong, I can’t even watch it anymore. It’s too much of a white lie”.
When Blake came back to Thunder Bay, he was inspired to share his experience through his artistic abilities. On November 14th, the National Day of Action for the No DAPL movement, Blake did a performance art piece in the Agora reflecting his experience with the No DAPL movement. Blake set a blue tarp on the floor of the Agora at Lakehead University, sat in the middle of it, and covered himself from the torso down in black paint to represent oil and its effects on nature. Once he was covered in black paint, he began to cry out for water. The water he received was put into cups, and he then dipped a sponge in the water and used it to cleanse himself. When his sponge was dirty, he would wring it out into a separate cup to represent the impact that oil spills have on water, as the water came out black. He would continue this process until all of the black paint has been cleansed from his body and the water came out pure. This was to represent the damage oil can have on the environment and water, and how long it would take to repair that damage.
Blake’s performance brought awareness to the issue of Dakota Access Pipeline to the Thunder Bay community. “It’s important to recognize what’s closer to home and now that I am back at home I can spread this information in Thunder Bay, and I can start with my school. I know so many people in Thunder Bay that I can help quickly and get things done quickly.” Blake encourages people to turn their focus to water instead of the Dakota Access Pipe Line. He invites people to pray for the water, and thank it for giving energy and life. You can get involved by donating supplies to the protestors at Standing Rock at http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/ , by spreading awareness about the environmental and cultural destruction the Dakota Access Pipeline will create, and most of all by thinking about and thanking water. Stand in solidarity with Standing rock and say no to the Dakota Access Pipe Line.