Cold prairie winds race across the landscape, increasingly harsh to those making camp along the Cannon Ball River in North Dakota. Spread here among several camps (in what has become the 13th largest city in the state) one will find mostly indigenous peoples from across the globe. Flags from these respective nations flutter and sometimes whip violently along roadsides and fence lines. These encampments are referred to as a ceremony by the native inhabitants of this land who are taking a stand for the sacred water they rely on.
These camps all face their own challenges. Some with more long term residents are able to focus on the construction of infrastructure of facilities that can withstand 50mph winds and temps falling below zero, while others have been trying to handle the influx of short term visitors coming and going and have to handle the impressive logistics of feeding thousands of people and handling donations that can often mound up in large piles. Self organizing efforts from the kitchens to a school for the children of the camp work hard to ensure needs are met. A security team handles the flow of traffic and safety around the clock while the media and law tents on “Facebook Hill” bustle during daylight hours. As in many situations, there are a few folks who do the bulk of the work.
While there are some similarities with the Occupy movement, it’s important for those who want to be allies to be culturally sensitive and understand that the #NoDAPL movement isn’t just a photo op. There are increasing concerns about people treating coming to Standing Rock as a vacation or abusing it for easy money from well meaning donors. Tensions are increasing at the camp as people who come for the weekend leave their trash or try to sneak photos of ceremonies or traditional garb in spite of requests to put cameras away. There is a lack of trust with most media who come to the camp as there are many instances of misleading falsehoods or cultural ignorance in the stories coming out.
If you are planning on heading out that direction, please plan on contributing something. Part of the magic that is Standing Rock is bringing an offering and giving of yourself to the community. Dishwashers would love a break and firewood is going to be needed. Instead of castoff clothing please bring any heavy winter clothes, work wear like Carharts, and winter sleeping bags. It is essential that teepees and canvas tents with wood stoves be acquired soon to fight off the cold. Many are also trying to get access to snowmobiles and 4×4 trucks for the winter. There are also never enough solar panels and batteries to support off grid living.
Please keep the pressure on your elected officials and media to get the word out. Many communities have solidarity events that are essential to overcoming the lack of coverage and to keep up the pressure. If we can come together we can change the path we are on, and see to the healing of the land, the water, and those who call this place home.
Donations to the camp should go here direct to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: standingrock.org/news/standing-rock-sioux-tribe–dakota-access-pipeline-donation-fund/