A few weeks ago, UU young adults and allies gathered to write letters to Indigenous water protectors who have been targeted for their activism and are still behind bars. Grounding together in song, meditation and discussion, we were joined by Rev. Karen Van Fossan, who shared about UU NoDAPL Political Prisoners solidarity work. While UUs are joining the movement demanding the Federal Bureau of Prisons to follow CDC guidelines and release qualifying prisoners, writing directly to those in prison is an important way to show solidarity and extend real human connection in these dangerous times.   

Indigenous water protectors have long been targeted by the racist US government – during the uprisings at Standing Rock, images of military tanks and hired guns staring down a peaceful, prayerful group went viral. But as the movement to defund the police grows, the connections between climate justice and prison abolition could never be more clear. Federal, state, out-of-state, and private troops were deployed to brutalize water protectors and allies, all in the name of protecting the private capital of the Dakota Access pipeline, and the oppression it represents. While the climate movement is about protecting water, and the people who depend on it, our current system of police exists to protect property and colonial power structures. 

The militarized police who try to quell protest are part of the same system that props up the oil industry, and that knocks down Indigenous rights, from the lawmaking halls to the courts. After a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access pipeline be shut down by this month, the company simply refused, and the oil still flows, despite ongoing legal battles. Communities along the route have also been fighting the company’s bid to double the pipeline’s capacity to be able to ship 1.1 million barrels of oil a day, after having it spilled several times. The status quo is bent on extracting as much oil as it can, never mind that fossil fuels have officially hit negative prices. Defunding the police, just like defunding fossil fuels, are all branches of the same budding tree to build a world based on clean water, safe communities and right relationship.

Imagine how the NoDAPL demonstrations could have turned out very differently if the police were not the only answer to rightful protest; when we defund the police, more money can support communities like Standing Rock that have gone far too long without their basic needs met. The NoDAPL movement is far from gone – and writing letters to Dion Ortiz, Red Fawn, Angry Bird, Rattler and Little Feather is one way to keep alight the fires that inspired so many at Standing Rock.


Get Involved

  • Watch and share the video above to spread the word about this important campaign.
  • Write your own letter! Find addresses and background information on the water protectors here. Make sure you closely follow the writing guidelines, as prison officials will find any excuse to throw out your letter. 
  • If you’re able, donate to the NoDAPL Political Prisoners campaign.