After actress Shailene Woodley's October 10 arrest for participating in a prayer action against the Dakota Access Pipeline went viral among her fans, the Divergent series star issued an impassioned plea to the American public to pay attention instead to the Native-American-led fight for water and land.
"Will you choose money, or will you choose children? Will you choose ignorance, or will you choose love? Will you choose blindness, or will you choose freedom?"
—Shailene Woodley"Treaties are broken. Land is stolen. Dams are built. Reservations are flooded. People are displaced," Woodley wrote in the op-ed published Thursday in TIME. "Yet we fail to notice. We fail to acknowledge. We fail to act."
The actress continued:
So much so that it took me, a white non-native woman being arrested on Oct 10th in North Dakota, on Indigenous Peoples' Day, to bring this cause to many people's attention. And to the forefront of news publications around the world.
The day I was detained, 26 others had to dress in orange as well, as they were booked into the Morton County jail. Did you hear about them?
Twenty-six men and women who put their livelihoods on the line, to protect their children, your children and my future children.
Twenty-six men and women who realize that millions of people depend on the Missouri River for drinking water.
And, you guessed it, you may be one of them. Did that catch your attention?
Woodley called on Americans to remember that everyone is at risk for contaminated tap water if the public doesn't advocate against projects like Dakota Access.
"If you are a human who requires water to survive, then this issue directly involves you," she wrote. "Don't let the automatic sink faucets in your homes fool you—that water comes from somewhere, and the second its source is contaminated, so is your bathtub, and your sink, and your drinking liquid. We must not take for granted the severity of this truth."
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"Listen up, America," Woodley commanded. "The Dakota Access Pipeline, my friends, is not another time to ignore, mistreat and turn a blind eye to Native Americans."
"[W]hat could it look like if we learned from this instance, where it took myself getting detained to raise awareness about Native Americans?" the actress asked:
What if we used it as a catalyst for a full societal shift in the way we start thinking and treating and learning from indigenous peoples? So that in the future, it doesn’t require a non-native celebrity to bring attention to the cause.
What if we took the hashtag #FreeShailene and made it #ProtectCleanWater, or #HonorNativeTreaties, or #IStandWithStandingRock?
What if we don’t let this stop trending on social media, at our dinner tables, in the streets? What if we wake up to the possibilities of noticing, of choosing and of acting on our awareness?
What if we take the time to understand the dynamics of what is at risk here?
Will you choose money, or will you choose children? Will you choose ignorance, or will you choose love? Will you choose blindness, or will you choose freedom?
Woodley also noted the police crackdown on Indigenous water protectors: "Just watch my Facebook livestream and decide for yourself who looks more dangerous: police in riot gear with batons, or native grandmothers and children smudging sage and singing songs," she wrote.
Woodley has experienced firsthand the severity with which North Dakota police and officials are treating pipeline protesters. She revealed in a Democracy Now! interview Thursday that she was strip-searched and put in an orange jumpsuit while in custody in the Morton County jail. Other protesters and even journalists have been handed down felony charges in what many see as a clear threat to the First Amendment.
The actress pled not guilty to misdemeanor charges of trespassing and engaging in a riot on Wednesday.
"Simply feeding off the hype of a celebrity's arrest ain't going to save the world," Woodley concluded. "But, standing together will. Please stand in solidarity with the Sioux people of Standing Rock Reservation to ensure that we still have rivers to swim in, springs to drink from and lakes to float on. Will you join us?"