2016 Whistleblower of the Year Candidate — Standing Rock Whistleblower Shailene Woodley
By Philip Brown
This “Whistleblower Spotlight” features Standing Rock whistleblower Shailene Woodley, one of our candidates for 2016 Whistleblower of the Year. Actress Shailene Woodley—best known for her starring roles in the Divergent series and The Secret Life of the American Teenager—helped to bring awareness to the harsh treatment that Dakota Access Pipeline protesters have experienced at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe believes the pipeline will put the reservation’s primary water source, the Missouri River, at risk. A lawsuit filed on the tribe’s behalf by the environmental group Earthjustice points to the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill to illustrate the devastating environmental effects caused by pipeline bursts. Tribe members have also voiced concerns about potential damage to wildlife habitats and sacred sites.
The protests, which started in the spring of 2016 as a small grassroots movement, received wider attention when the Dakota Access Pipeline company was caught on video attacking protestors with dogs and pepper spray. Shortly after this incident, 24-year-old actress Shailene Woodley set out to bring additional awareness to the Standing with Standing Rock cause. Woodley’s efforts eventually led to her arrest—along with 26 other protesters—for engaging in a riot and criminal trespassing.
At the time of her arrest, Woodley was live-streaming to around 40,000 Facebook users. The video of law enforcement taking her into custody has been viewed nearly 5 million times. Speaking to Democracy Now! about her arrest, Woodley stated, “never did it cross my mind that while trying to protect clean water, trying to ensure a future where our children have access to an element essential for human survival, would I be strip-searched. I was just shocked.” Despite her harrowing experience, Woodley was not deterred:
I am not scared. I am not afraid. I am grateful, and I am amazed to be standing by the sides of so many peaceful warriors…. Simply feeding off the hype of a celebrity’s arrest ain’t going to save the world. 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.
A strong message to future whistleblowers from Whistleblower of the Year candidate Shailene Woodley.