Iakaonne´tha ne oneka

Iakaonne´tha ne oneka

Ruth Dan Yup´ik, indigenous Alaskan and student at the University of Rochester 11/05/16


Kelly Mae McHargue (left) and Kaleen Heigl, social work students at SUNY Brockport

Iakaonne´tha ne oneka (A rough translation of “Water is Life” offered by members of the Seneca tribe.)

Yesterday at the Liberty Pole, several hundred Rochesterians gathered to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The oil pipeline would stretch 1,200 miles underground through the Missouri River, carrying a half million barrels of crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois daily. Part of the river is the primary source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in central North and South Dakota.

See D & C: Rochester protesters decry North Dakota pipeline and 13WHAM: Rochester protesters rally for ‘Standing Rock’ Sioux tribe

The rally drew progressive activists, environmentalists, and concerned citizens of all stripes worried about drinking water and rail safety and how the pipeline will increase energy dependence on fossil fuels and worsen global climate change.


Dalton Labarge and Margaret Balcolm

Representative Louise Slaughter spoke about her letter sent to President Obama expressing grave concerns about the Army Corp of Engineer’ approval of the pipeline (at end). We heard and gave speeches, chanted, sang and bonded. The mood was buoyant and life-affirming as many a car honked horns in support.

A large contingent of indigenous people came in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and to raise awareness of Native American issues.

Dalton Labarge, Rohsennase tribal member and University of Rochester medical student, explained that the rally was both about environmental and climate protection and defending Native American rights. Dalton says the construction of the pipeline is another iteration of U.S. government actions favoring companies that extract minerals over the treaty rights of indigenous peoples.


(front) Laila, one of Athesia’s daughter’s (back) Athesia interviewed by Time Warner Cable

Ruth Dan Yup´ik, indigenous Alaskan and student at the University of Rochester, came to support her villagers back home. Ruth says rising temperatures and melting ice have forced villagers off their seacoast land, making them the first climate refugees in the United States.

By coincidence, yesterday was Guy Fawkes Day, the day of  the global Million Mask March. A couple of dozen masked men and women lent their anonymous support.

While Athesia Benjamin was, of course, just one of many, she lit the spark, organizing the rally by setting up a facebook event page and reserving the Liberty Pole way.


from “Rochester protesters decry North Dakota pipeline” D & C, 11/6/16

From the facebook page came an interview with WXXI, Rochester Protesters Plan Demonstration against Dakota Access Pipeline, and from there the digital and real word spread.

At the rally, Athesia was a firebrand and a spitfire, revving up and inspiring the crowd.

Athesia is modest in saying she lolls around behind her computer. See Athesia, Video Celeb turned Paparazzi, at the rally





Neka Zimmerman (left) Kelly Mae McHargue (Right) (Photo: Erin Gallagher ’19, RIT Photojournalism)

Rochester City Council candidate Mary Lupien spoke at the rally, and also discussed the local implications of the pipeline. Hear Mary Lupien, 11/6/16:


Tom and Tashina Leavitt (photo of Tashina by Erin Gallagher)

Tom and his daughter, Desirae are Mohawk tribe. Tom says he hasn’t seen a rally this energized and supportive since the Red Power movement of the 1960s.


Frank Regan (left) and Jack Spula



(left) Affa, one of Athesia’s daughters


(right) Jennifer with sign. In back, a translator for deaf people


SOTA students, Ethan Beckwith-Cohen and Grace Myers


(right) UR Medical Student Alexandra next to Native American incense (back) Affa



Anonymous Masked Marchers on Upper Monroe. 11/05/16

I asked the Masked Marchers why people need to be reminded of, or shown, their common humanity. The Marchers tend to blame corporate powers able “to use people’s minds against themselves.” Motivated by greed, corporations and complicit governments allow, encourage and take advantage of the reality that people watch too much tv, are given shoddy educations and taught materialistic values.


Left photo by Erin Gallagher

The Mask Movement, or Anonymous, is generally seen as anti-capitalist, most opposed to corruption in politics and police violence; while favoring demilitarization and self-governance.


with Representative Louise Slaughter. Photo taken by Jaime Morrill (right)




Rochester leaves its footprint on La Marche Globale

The Canandaigua Treaty of 1794, the Dakota Access Pipeline and a rally at the Liberty Pole on Saturday

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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