Friday, February 3, 2017

What a difference a day makes at Standing Rock!

Last Child Campground

What a difference a day makes at Standing Rock! Everything has changed so many times in the last week it’s been impossible to get one post out before things get turned around. A few of days ago on Jan. 31 we were celebrating an agreement with the governor to stand down and then Feb 01 we were saddened to learn that not only will we have to leave our beloved Rosebud Camp but we are also may not be allowed to build the new camp at Black Hoop Memorial Camp due to tribal claim to partial ownership. They now say that the tipi action on the hill by the “Standing Rock campers”, led by Chase Ironeyes broke the truce or that was what most people on the outside were told. Now the tribe wants no more camps. It’s hard to say what will happen next but it seems like the fire is growing dim. I do not condone the use of such heavy military presence here. With that said I am not sure what reaction the new camp expected. The spirit with which they did it was good. The timing was terrible. We needed to be getting the Oceti Camp area cleaned up.

To say that all campers at Standing Rock campers agreed with and participated in the action is not true. There is more than one camp here on the Cannonball River. There was Oceti Sakowin, Sacred Stones, and Rosebud. Rosebud has, for the most part remained a prayer camp that is and has always been a peaceful place to live.
The announcement by the governor that we could take our time and clean up properly was a welcome thing but when the call came out to protect the people on the hill at the teepees and on the road many responded just because that’s what Water Protectors do.

Everything in the agreement changed when the group of individuals who were not connected to Rosebud and have been described as a "rogue group" decided to take a parcel of land they believed to be treaty land and build a new camp there called The Last Child Camp.
I agree with them that it should be their land but the new President is going to unleash a world of hurt on any future actions. It is well known that he invested in the project before election and his companies still hold that interest. The action could have waited until the cleanup was complete at least. The action at Last Child brought in swarms of DAPL Gang cops and the National Guard this time. I am not sure what the objective was to take that hill but the end consequence is that we were all placed in jeopardy now of being evicted by the tribe. It wasn’t very well thought out or led and the timing was terrible for the all of the camps as a whole.

This was almost an exact repeat of the eminent domain camp which was the first violent action in Oct. at Backwater Bridge. It wasn’t successful then and it didn’t work this time either.

It also did not help that the contractor working on the cleanup was very upset to find out they had allegedly used his equipment without permission to plow the road to the top and clear the camp site.

Instead of concentrating on methodically cleaning and moving the camp now we are scrambling to get our personal belongings together and the excess supplies taken out to people in need through the reservation. We don’t have very long, maybe a couple of weeks if we’re lucky to clear out for good. The idea of a new camp may be gone too. The tribe has said no more camps on the reservation and BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) is being used to enforce it.

I admire the courage of those who took the hill and put up a camp. I applaud the spirit of the warriors who stood on the line in the road that day. Somehow though I can’t help asking myself just what did it accomplish? What was the objective? In retrospect I think it has started something we can’t control any longer.
BIA was friendly to us here at Rosebud and even helped arrange cleanup dumpsters for the camp through the tribe. Now they may have to turn us out as well before long. They raided Sacred Stones Camp 02/02/17 under the guise of EPA violations in camp. In all my years as an environmental advocate and activist I have never seen EPA issue a health violation for a compost pile with an army of BIA police! Hell, in Alabama they never even issue notices. They are almost non-existent. Under this administration the public can’t even access the violation reports as we have since their inception. The President put them under a gag order!

The EPA was just an excuse. Feb. 01,2017 there was a closed meeting of Cannonball residents and the governor. The next day there was a raid on Sacred Stone. It was the founding camp and the most adamant about stopping the pipeline at any cost and measure. I am not sure of the outcome of that raid because I couldn’t get over there. There were over 20 BIA cars on the road and of course the chopper spotting for them. I’m sure it wasn’t good. I was later told that the gate to Sacred Stone was barred and BIA wasn’t allowed into camp. BIA informed them that when they came back it would be by force. No good can come from this. My biggest fear at this time is that someone is going to get killed if it continues at this pace.

I’m not sure how to close out this chapter of my life but I can’t help feeling like there's a lot for me to do visiting various protest / prayer camps being set up across America. Camps set up to stop the progress of the many new and planned pipelines to crisscross the country need to have their story told as well. The for-profit media isn’t interested in anything less sensational than the current debacle in Washington DC. Freelancers like me are going to have to be there to tell the truth about the injustices that come along with these pipeline projects.
What we learned here at Standing Rock and Rosebud must be carried out to the other camps around the nation. We know what worked and what did not. We know what our limitations are and just how powerful our prayers can be when everyone is praying together for the same just cause. Standing Rock and moreover Rosebud (Sicangu) will live in me forever. I have to pass this passion and knowledge on before I go. I have a vast collection of photos, videos and memories I want to share. I want to help correct the mistakes we made here and grow the strength of what worked well.

Living and working at Standing Rock and moreover, Rosebud has been one of the most inspirational times of my life. Mitakue Oaysin

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Cleanup Begins

Oceti Sakowin 01/30/17 The Cleanup Begins
Jan. 30, 2017 was the deadline to be out of the camps at Standing Rock. There were threats of violence and military intervention to clear the camp. It was said anyone who was not out by the 30th would lose their belongings and the camp would be cleared with heavy equipment under guard. As it turned out all of that was hype and rumor spread by people who really don’t know as much as they claim.


On Jan. 28 I was with some friends in security when the announcement came over the radio that an agreement had been made between Oceti Sakowin leaders and the governor. It was agreed that the governor would pull his militia back and not “raid” the camps if the Water Protectors would also pull back and refrain from acts of violence.
He also agreed to remove the razor wire and “some” of the concrete barriers at the backwater bridge on Hwy 1806. I watched as they began that process. The razor wire has been cut and all of the concrete barriers are off the bridge. They are still piled up blocking the road but I feel like those will be gone today or sometime in the near future.

The crews showed up around 9:30 AM with a convoy of loaders, track hoes, bobcats, snow plows and men to run them but no military force set to eject us forcefully.

I watched as volunteers went from abandoned tent-to-tent checking them for people and or usable supplies. What was usable or identifiable was collected and the rest was removed using heavy equipment to sort through the deep snow. One track hoe operator was using his machine to break open the snow clods and pick out trash. At one point I saw him use it to pick up a single piece of cardboard from the ground.

I awoke this morning to the sounds of them working today still cleaning up the mess left behind by thoughtless campers who just simply pulled up stakes and left everything behind. It was good to have such a show of force but leaving the mess for others to clean up unacceptable.

The new camp at Black Hoop will not be treated in this manner. We remain and will always remain a prayer camp with cultural learning in the mix.

Thanks to all who camp out to stand with us but if you can find the means to return we sure could use the help moving camps and cleaning up before the Spring floods.


Monday, January 30, 2017

A Standing Rock Marriage

Faith Meckley and Alex Televantos were married on 01/29/17 at Rosebud Camp at Standing Rock. It was a delightful change to the normal photos of actions and bad news!

Enjoy this wonderful experience with us. We are not only staying, we are growing!

New Beginnings at Standing Rock

I had some apprehension about returning to Standing Rock due to all of the sensational and mostly false reports about military invasions and mass eviction of the camps. It was a relief to find most of the people calm and not too concerned about deadlines. There was one report of “Massive military buildup”. I never saw it. When I arrived I found the camp at work organizing a move to higher ground but it was a controlled plan and very methodical.

The day after I arrived a message came over the security radio that an agreement had been met between Oceti Sakwin Headsmen and the new governor of ND --- that if the Protectors would refrain from any acts of violence the DAPL Gang cops would stand down. He agreed to remove the razor wire and “some of the concrete barriers”. He also agreed to make Morton Co. and the other police acting as DAPL militia refrain from bring neither lethal nor non-lethal weapons to the field when dealing with Protectors. I personally consider this a huge step in the right direction. The past responses were extremely over-reactive under Gov. DAPLwanker. The new governor seems to want de-escalation

The first order of business was removing the snow cover at the new campsite. There is an old timber frame house on the property that is in pretty bad condition but we have an army of skilled carpenters, electricians, and builders of various skill levels. Today they already started remodeling the house.  By tomorrow there will be electric power and water on site!

A lot of people are wondering why do all this work when the DAPL will probably get built. Some say we are defeated so why continue to fight?

The simple answer is that Rosebud (Sicangu) Camp has grown to a new level. The camp has always remained a prayer camp dedicated to peaceful response to the pipeline. I have been here since Sept. In that time I have never seen a fight, or even rowdy people. Kids and elders alike are treated with respect. Those who are young and healthy enough look after the elderly to see they are well cared for. It has been like watching a village building as it grew.

Sicangu Camp will be closed eventually and the new camp to me known as “Black Hoop” after the family who is kindly allowing the cam to set up. Being on private land it will be more secure with an invitation only residence. That will help control the nature of people coming in and safety of those living inside.

Once established, the new camp will become an education center and cultural center for teaching the old ways to kids and others who want to learn the language and ways of the Lakota. Eventually it will be run as a 501(c) 3 with funding specific to education and outreach.  I was especially excited to hear that one of the courses will be in “oil spill response and cleanup” Curly and Donna want this to last well beyond the DAPL movement of today. They want to prepare their people for the eventual blowout or “spill” as the industry likes to call them.

Bakken Crude is like no crude oil ever produced in the US. It is far more explosive and dangerous to transport due to the chemicals and gasses it contains. When it is introduced to water some of the gasses will emulsify and become part of the water. Some of it will sink to the bottom where it becomes part of the sediment where it can linger for years. It must be handled properly and quickly. It makes perfect sense to have a well-trained first response unit right here on the reservation between DAPL and the drinking water intake that serves the res.

The view from Black Hoop is incredible! We can see the well pad, DAPL gang barracks, Backwater Bridge, and a great view of the river. I will put my tipi up there next week right on the ridge overlooking the river.  One of my biggest complaints about trying to work from here is the lack of good signal.
From Black Hoop Camp I can see the towers in Bismarck. With line of sight signal I get 5 bars 4G and lightning fast Internet. Work is going to be so much easier up there. I will be coming back and forth as long as there is interest in watching this new village grow. What I foresee here is something very positive spinning out of the great Standing Rock standoff.

I’ve been here off and on since late August and early Sept. I have seen it extremely peaceful and prayerful and when it was somewhat less than either. That can be said for both sides at times but I sincerely believe it took every action both peaceful and otherwise to bring international attention to the injustice being inflicted upon people who were here long before any white settlers came along and took it away. They were punished for speaking and praying in their own language so it has all but gone away now. Ancient ceremonies are being revived and old songs being sung by the young and old alike just as in the old times. That is the Spirit that we want to live at Black Hoop Camp.

I have been here for 2 births, one unfortunate death; I’ve seen many actions both peaceful and not so much. On 01/28/17 I got to shoot the most fun event yet. A wedding!

Alex Televantos and Faith Meckley took their vows at the Sacred Fire on the bank of the river. It was a beautiful ceremony where they took sips of water that had been blessed and then walked out on the ice over the river and together poured their wedding water in the river, or should I say on the river!

The river is covered with a thick sheet of ice and then about a foot of snow over that. It’s beautiful but it is also the reason we have to abandon the camp. When the spring thaw comes this area is probably going to flood.

Sicangu Camp along the Cannonball River has always been a special place for me. I have met some of the most wonderful people in my life here. I’ve seen good times and bad, heartache and happiness. I’ve rekindled a Spiritual side of me that had gone to sleep in some ways. That is what I will take to the new camp because this is still a long way from over and a presence is needed for at least the next 4 years.

If you want to lend a hand, we need volunteers who can be completely self-sustained in harsh winter conditions to come help with the cleanup of the campsites before spring floods come. There’s a lot to be done and we sure could use some help!