STANDING WITH STANDING ROCK - NOVEMBER 23rd - 27th 2016
Dear Friends and Family,
After seeing Amy Goodman's video for Democracy Now, which documented Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL) security officers using attack dogs and chemical weapons against the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people who were protecting their sacred land and drinking water, Alex and I wanted to help. We sent money, but we wanted to do more - we wanted to stand with the tribes in protection of their water.
Alex's sister, Emy, had a friend who needed a large reverb plate delivered from LA to Colorado. Alex rented a van to transport the musical equipment. Once we dropped it off and picked up Emy, the three of us loaded the van with coats, blankets, wool socks, gloves, warm hats, and food donated by Conscious Alliance - an organization Emy volunteers for. We drove the van of supplies to Standing Rock, North Dakota.
In the camp, people of all ages, colors, and nationalities have joined together in solidarity with the natives, and in protection of the Earth. There's a medic tent, four kitchens, a legal aid tent, media hill (where a stationary bike hooked up to a generator powers a charging station for everyone's phones, laptops, etc.) and several public meeting spaces for daily meetings. Around the Sacred Fire near the entrance, there's a microphone where Native Elders make announcements and sing songs.
Each morning, before sunrise, an Elder calls for everyone to "WAKE UP" and join him at the Sacred Fire. From there we walk to the river for a water ceremony at sunrise. We are reminded that the police are not our enemies. They are our brothers and sisters; we must love and forgive them. If there is an enemy, it's the banks, it's capitalism, it's greed. We are encouraged to take our money out of the large banks that fund these oil pipelines, and instead invest in local credit unions that fund smaller, local projects. We are encouraged to be aware of how our money is invested, and what it's being used for. And we are encouraged to use and invest in alternative energies, like solar and wind.
If you are interested in Social Responsible Investing - here's an informative link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socially_responsible_investing
And here's a list of credit unions:
Orientation is held daily to teach newcomers the guidelines of camp. More than just the dos and don'ts, we were taught the seven Lakota virtues: Wocekiya (Prayer), Waohola (Respect), Waunsila (Compassion), Wowicake (Honesty), Wawokiye (Generosity), Wahwala (Humility), and Woksape (Wisdom). We were also asked to have sensitivity towards the local indigenous population - to keep things indigenous centered. And to be aware of our selves. The orientation leaders (non-natives who have been sanctioned by the native Elders) pointed out that colonization is not just happening across the river, where the cops are, but also in camp, where non-natives outnumber the natives. We were encouraged to stay away from the microphone at the Sacred Fire, to not pump the Elders for information (another form of "extraction"), but to sit with our not-knowing, and to be aware of how much space and resources we're taking.
There's also a Direct Action training where we figured out how to take care of each other during actions. The native people are being targeted by police, so we practiced building rings of humans around them. We learn how to wash chemical weapons out of our eyes, and out of the eyes of our allies. We learn how to stay calm.
The first action Alex, Emy, and I attended was on November 24th - Thanksgiving. The sentiment we heard from the natives was that they largely don't celebrate this holiday. The feeling is that Thanksgiving washes over the genocide the native populations have endured over the past five hundred years, (90% of their population being wiped out) and instead paints an inaccurate narrative of peaceful friendship.
The action on the 24th took place at Turtle Island, northeast of the Oceti Sakowin camp. This island is sacred land for the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota - their ancestors are buried here. The police have take over the island. On the 24th the Water Protectors built a bridge to the island, and crossed over to hold a peaceful ceremony. The cops declared, over their bull horn, that building a bridge is an act of aggression and they would be forced to retaliate.
Alex took footage of the action with a drone. You can see some of the footage in the embedded video. And here is some audio from the action - you can hear the cop on his bullhorn:
This action lasted for several hours. There was a high level of tension as cops continuously threatened the gathering Water Protectors. The next morning we discovered the cops had taken the Water Protectors' canoes across the river to the island side and smashed them. They had also run razor wire along the shoreline and over the top of the island. Many people in camp, who had been there longer than us, were not surprised, but were nevertheless dismayed by the retaliation.
Friday and Saturday Alex, Emy, and I volunteered in camp: picking up trash, organizing donated supplies, and serving food in the mess hall.
On Sunday the 27th there was a women-led, silent prayer action organized and led by Cheryl Angel, Starhawk, and Lyla June Johnston. From 9:30am - 12:30pm we were mentally and spiritually prepared with words, prayers, poems and song. We also repeatedly practiced our action. After 12:30pm we took a break to warm up and eat something before reconvening. Around 2pm we headed to the bridge where cops, months ago, set up barricades, razor wire, and an armored vehicle so no Water Protectors can access the DAPL dig site.
Even though the Army Corp of Engineers required DAPL to stop digging for thirty days while the two parties worked to come to an agreement, DAPL continued digging, (doubling their pace) and merely paying fines while continuing the work.
The women-led action was successful - no arrests. The native women were able to perform a water ceremony on the northern shore of the river - an area they no longer have access to. The men who participated in the morning training held space for the women on the southern side of the bridge. Alex held back a few agitators who wanted to go to the front line. He explained this was a woman-led action, women only - and entirely silent.
Once the native women had completed the ceremony, they returned to the bridge and led the women back through the group of men, and back into camp. We all celebrated around the Sacred Fire.
As we stood around the fire, it started to rain. Considering we were in a big, empty van with only two wheel drive, we decided the rain was our cue to leave - before the ground got too muddy. We drove back to Colorado and dropped off Emy, then headed home to LA.
Today, December 4th, we've just heard the good news that The Army Corp of Engineers has denied the easement to DAPL. We hope to continue to hear good news regarding Standing Rock. We hope that the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota waters and land remain protected. And we hope humans everywhere continue to band together to protect the disenfranchised and the Earth.
Mni Wiconi (Water is Life),
Kate, Alex, and Emy
P.S. For a more in-depth, journalistic report check out this piece by Chris Hedges: https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/368255-north-dakota-pipeline-protests/
P.P.S. We also found this Standing Rock Syllabus, that colleges in the NYC area put together, to be helpful. It gives a timeline of the treaties the US government has broken with the tribe, and it shows maps of their territory shrinking over time: https://nycstandswithstandingrock.wordpress.com/standingrocksyllabus/
P.P.P.SAnother great video of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. explaining the mentality of the corporations behind the pipeline and other pipelines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VcadKRnvFM&feature=share