Shailene Woodley/Instagram
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August 24, 2016 02:50 PM

Shailene Woodley is taking a stand against the construction of an oil pipeline that will run through North and South Dakota.

The actress, 24, joined over 200 protesters earlier this month to protest the planned $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, reports the Bismark Tribune. Activists fear the pipeline, which is set to run 1,100 miles through the Dakotas and across the Missouri River, will contaminate ground water.

On Wednesday, Woodley joined a group of Standing Rock Sioux tribe activists and their allies outside the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. in protest of the planned $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline.

“The rally was amazing,” Woodley tells PEOPLE. “It was a really good turnout, around a couple hundred people showed up.” The group of protesters also included Susan Sarandon and Riley Keough.

Susan Sarandon, Riley Keough and Shailene Woodley in Washington D.C. on Wednesday
Paul Morigi/WireImage

Woodley first joined the protest on Aug.9, supporting those who participated in a run from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. – and she plans to stay until a resolution is found.

“The reason this is important to me is that it’s far bigger than just a pipeline,” she explains. “This is also about recognizing that in our country – the government, fossil fuel industries, corporations, mainstream media – there is a particular ignorance when it comes to Native Americans and Native American sovereignty – and this marries those issues.

“This reservation is fighting for water not only for their people, but for all people – and that is beautiful to me. The reservation recognizes that what happens in the Missouri River will affect all people, because every time we allow a pipeline to be built, and we allow crude oil to still be the source of so much of our energy (despite having renewable resources we could already be utilizing), we continue the narrative of dependency on fossil fuels.”

She has chronicled her participation with the protest on social media, even sharing several Facebook Live videos of her “standing in solidarity” with fellow protesters.

“At the blockade standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock and Sioux tribes,” she captioned a video of her standing among the crowd chanting.

While there have been reports of arrests at the site, Woodley took to Instagram to insist that they are acting in a “peaceful” and “unifying” manner.

“All this talk of violence on the Reservation is as aggravating as it is hilarious … because it couldn’t be further from the present truth,” she wrote, urging more people to join in on their cause. “Come stand with those gathered here to see just how peaceful, unifying, and beautiful this movement is. if this pipeline breaks, it will effect EIGHTEEN MILLION PEOPLE who depend on the Missouri River for drinking water. check yo’self. this is about protecting ALL water. do you depend on the Missouri for drinking water? look it up. chances are a lot of you do, and just don’t know it. united, we will win.”

She also posted photos with her “brothers and sisters” in the fight.

“They are calling us protestors. but, they have it wrong: we are not protesting. we are p.r.o.t.e.c.t.i.n.g,” she wrote on Instagram.

“The reason why I think people need to get involved in this is because clean water is now a political issue,” Woodley tells PEOPLE. “It shouldn’t have to be, but it is. And the only way we’re going to change that is if we stand up, if we call congressmen, and we tell them that we believe in clean water not only for our lives, but for future generations as well.”

Moving forward, Woodley says she plans to return to the reservation and continue the fight. “I think we have a good shot of winning this at a governmental level, but I think we have an even better shot winning with the people,” she explains.

“We have to make this issue bigger, if not as big, as Keystone XL because Keystone made pipelines a household name,” she says. “And what this issue can do is not only make pipelines a household name, but also end the oppression placed upon Native Americans in our country.”

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