Standing with Standing Rock: UNI students head out to film docum - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Standing with Standing Rock: UNI students head out to film documentary

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(KWWL) -

Three University of Northern Iowa students are heading out west to film a documentary on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. 

Hundreds have gathered for months on end to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The protesters are trying to shut down construction of a controversial pipeline on private land. After setting fires and blocking the bridge in the path of the pipeline, months of tension have escalated. 

The Dakota Access Oil Pipeline will cross four states, connecting North Dakota and Illinois. A $3.8 billion dollar project that would be capable of transporting 570,000 barrels of oil a day. 

The pipeline runs adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where Native Americans say the project is destroying sacred sites and could pollute the Missouri River, which is a clean water source for millions. 

The pipeline has close Iowa connections, which will cross through 18 counties in the state and extend over 340 miles. 

Roberto Estrella, Kevin Thorn, and Drew Hays came to the idea to film a documentary on Standing Rock after their professor presented a challenging task. They had an assignment to shoot a documentary, that would change the world. 

"I saw all of these pictures of people getting pepper-sprayed, attacked by dogs, and I was like this needs to be brought to attention, not many people know about this," said Estrella. "And I was going around campus and asking people, like do you know about the North Dakota Access Pipeline protests and they were like the what?"

After speaking with their peers, they decided they needed to bring back the narrative of the Indigenous people there. 

"We all kind of have this privilege to look away to certain things," said Thorn. 

Estrella and Thorn,  who had taken a trip to Standing Rick twice before, decided they needed to do more than just help. Their assignment to shoot a documentary that would change the world presented the exact answer, so they added on another friend to the project. 

"A lot of the narrative that we see from the big media agencies-it's the big key words," said Hays. Protest. Tier gas. Militarization."

"I feel like protesting nowadays has such a negative connotation," said Estrella. "When in all actuality, they're just trying to defend what is theirs. And 'defend the sacred' is one of the mottos of them."

They say they hope their documentary will bring back the story of the people there. The stories that have stuck with them.  

Estrella recounted one of the anecdotes from an indigenous man they met while there. 

"I am here for my children, my chidren's children, and for their safety,' said Estrella. "And I want them to be able to live without fear of someone coming in and taking their land."

One of the challenges they say they will have to face is separating themselves from the issue at hand, and capturing the moments as they unfold. 

All three students will be leaving Saturday. 

Those who are in favor of the pipeline say it is the safest way to transport crude oil, and will be much better in the long run. 

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