While this is currently an ongoing battle, I thought I'd write about the week I spent in North Dakota at the DAPL protest. After watching Amy Goodman's horrific coverage of the private security attacking protestors with dogs, I felt that I had to be there, to stand with these people. I've provided a link to said video at the bottom of the page. So what are these people protesting about anyways? What is happening up there? Why is there no media coverage? Who is actually in the right? All of these questions are circulated through social media and word of mouth everyday. I can attest that this is a peaceful protest. These people are standing their ground and putting their lives on the line for the drinking water of millions.
For me, this movement really struck home. My beautiful home in Colorado, is also being threatened by gas and oil companies. We're all fighting the same fight! A fight for our water and ultimately our future. My small community threw together several truckloads of donations. I was impressed with the amount of nice camping gear, coats, and abundance of food. I did the drive strait through (16 hours) alone. About 30 miles out from Sacred Stone Campground I had to surpass a roadblock that was intended to keep the masses from entering the protest. Being that it was midnight, I hauled ass and surpassed it; I was too close to turn around and find an alternative route. When I arrived, I never could have guessed that thousands were camping, due to the lack of light. A group of native men who were guarding the entrance approached my car and asked, "Who are you? Where'd you come from?". I was rather intimidated and quickly reassured them that I was here to support and help, and that I was Darcie from Paonia. One of the men warmed up and said, "Hey I've been there! My dad, Marvin Swallows, spends a lot of time there. I'm Calvert." The world is a small place! I was amazed and comforted by this. Calvert then said, "Follow me and I'll take you to your people!" I instantly felt a strong sense of gratitude. Out of all the thousands of people camping here, this man was able to lead me to the "Paonia Camp", which was such a small fraction of the camp, in the dead of night.
The next morning I awoke at sunrise after some much needed sleep. I jolted out of my tent to see what I could not see last night, the camp. It was surreal to wake up at the Sacred Stone Camp. Tipis, tents, school buses and campers filled the campground along the majestic Missouri River. There were multiple camps along either side of the river, we were coddling her. I walked across the bridge and saw a beautiful blue heron bathing in the river.
One thing I did not expect was to be fed a hot breakfast and dinner everyday! An elder man called everyone from our camp to the area in front of the "kitchen". Before every meal, everyone would hold hands in a circle and sing/listen to native prayer songs. We would then pray and envision protection, and everyone would then drink from the same glass of water. Afterwards the circle would unravel and we would all hug and say our name to each person. I was surprised how fast I learned everyone's name after only a couple meals. The energy at camp was tense and serious, but rightfully so. Yet the camp had a rambunctious hopeful life to it. It's unlike anything to be surrounded by thousands, all for the same reason and purpose. I unloaded my car full of donations and felt so incredibly happy to give to these brave people. Men, women and children from tribes all over the world are sacrificing everything to camp on this river and defend the water. A pair of old snow boots can really mean a lot to a mother of three who only has enough to get by. People were so genuine to me. As I walked around different camps, people would call out to me, "Hey! Come have some coffee!" "Hey thank you for being here! Whats your name!" "Come by later for a meal and prayer!" I had never had so many genuine loving human interactions in such a short period of time.
There is always something you can be doing to help, and with a camp this size, it takes a village to keep the wheels turning. My hometown friends Topher, Jaycee, and Dalbow contributed to the man power of camp; chopping wood, digging out underground food storage, starting fires, shoeing horses etc. I gravitated to all the elderly women, who literally spend all day in the camp kitchen ( a wall tent with Coleman camp stoves) preparing meals for their camp. What amazing warrior women, feeding/fueling the masses on the front lines. I'm not going to lie, they made some of the best fry bread I've ever had..period. I decided to help organize the massive piles of food donations coming in to ensure that things didn't spoil, and to see what we needed most. Again I was amazed at the quality AND quantity of food at our camp alone. The Paonia people started a recycling area, and more solar energy supplements are being added to camp. There are several medic tents, a woman offering free massage and accupuncture, a message board, sweat lodges and enormous heaps of free clothing. The river is lined with rows of plums, blue berries, cedar and other plants that were planted by the ancestors of the Standing Rock Sioux, and are still tended too.
Some of the media is portraying the protest as violent and uncalled for. I've had strangers private message me and say that the protest isn't even happening on the reservation and that these people are crazy and need to go home. The fact of the matter is, this IS their home. The Sacred Stone Campground is five minutes outside the town of Cannon Ball, which is home to many of the protestors. The protest camp IS on reservation and treaty land. The river runs through the reservation and supplies water to millions throughout the country! The original plans for the pipeline construction was rejected and rerouted because the people of Bismarck feared for their water! The Dakota Access Pipeline know that this pipeline is an insane risk, but they do not care! Several protestors, while I was there, would go and chain themselves to the pipeline equipment. Roughly 20 of these people were arrested when I was there.
Through word of mouth, the message of a peace march had been spread throughout camp. We all met at the entrance gate to the big camp. Each person was smudged and blessed before we hit the road. Due to the large mass of people we had to travel on the road. Many cars were patient and supportive, while some looked aggravated. We set out to march two miles down the road to the burial grounds that had been desecrated and dug up by the Dakota Access Pipeline. People with flags were prompted to the front; elders were also urged to be in the front to sing and lead. The span of people went on as far as I could see. Signs of protest and flags of indigenous people lined the fences the entire way. When we arrived at the burial grounds everyone took a handful of tobacco and held it in a tight fist to the sky. An elder Lakota woman held a prayer to the four directions of the universe, she had a great booming voice. Together we let the wind take the tobacco across the desecrated field.
At dusk the camp would really come alive. Across the river I could see the big camp lit up by the glow of fire and trailing embers. The chanting and screaming boomed through the valley, all tied together with drums. Every night I would drift into a deep sleep, entranced by the sounds across the river. I learned to never underestimate the power of hopeful loving people.
Out of respect and request from the elders, no photos of ceremony or prayer were photographed.
Video I took during the march:
Amy Goodman's footage:
#NODAPL #Rezpectourwater #waterislife #standingwithstandingrock #mniwiconi