Monday, September 19, 2016

Standing Rock Water Protectors

 Standing Rock Water Protectors 

Click Photos to Enlarge

This story needs to be told from inside the camps at Standing Rock. The entire trip was like a two loop roller coaster. Up one minute down the next, always aware of everything going on. Late at night the sound of ancient songs and drums echoed across the Cannonball River. I was taken back to a time when there was nothing but these sounds long before white men came with empty promises.

I felt an air of distrust when I arrived at Sacred Stone Camp there because I was considered media and there had recently been some misguided press coverage. After camp security checked me out and got to know me a bit we became fast friends. After a day or so, security called me Hunka, adopted family to a group of people I didn’t even know existed a week ago. As of this writing the numbers are estimated at nearly 8,000 people representing over 200 nations. Including the letters of support there were over 280 nations involved in the largest gathering in history.
Main camp at Standing Rock

Day 01, Tonya Bonitatibus, Savanna Riverkeeper and I got to take part in a march to sacred grounds where just a day before the pipeline security goons used dogs to attack humans and physically threw women to the ground. This was done while bulldozers pushed through sacred grounds where their ancestors were buried.

The tribe had notified the US Corps of Engineers only two days earlier of several sacred burial sites where their ancestors lay in what should have been resting peace forever. Then on a Saturday during Labor Day weekend when the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline #NODAPL) work crews moved heavy machinery over 20 miles I was told to destroy those sites intentionally in my opinion. The scene got very ugly when untrained “security” militia came across state lives with attack dogs to protect the workers from being stopped. Had it not been for Amy Goodman and her camera crew the world would not have seen the horrible scene unfold. Several people were bitten including a small girl that I was told when I left was still in the hospital.
We gathered at the main camp and walked up to the site with around 1,000+ people. Along the way there were horses bearing warriors who had protected the people from the dogs. Behind them came a parade of people stretching a mile long. Songs and prayers were offered on the march to the site but no violence what so ever. When we got to the site you could feel the sadness in the people’s eyes as we entered the place.

We made a big circle and sang Sundance and Canupa songs. (The Sacred Pipe used for prayer. Pronounced Chanupa) We offered tobacco to the ancestors and prayed as a single voice. It was the most moving experience of my life I think. When it was over the mood changed to one of resolve and hope. Resolve to be here for the long run and hope that together we can stop the black snake Black Elk spoke of in his prophecies.
No photos were taken of the actual disturbed site out of respect

Several of the people were gracious enough to allow me an interview about what this actually means to them. It’s way more than a bunch of environmentalists protesting. This was a gathering of people to stop the desecration and rape of our Mother Earth. It’s about treaties being broken that were signed into law in 1867 at Ft. Laramie. ND. Those treaties have all been broken and will continue if the people don’t stand up to it like we did here. It is about the use of eminent domain to steal land from unwilling citizens who are worth less than the profit margin at the bottom of some fat-cats portfolio. While the actual use of eminent was not ordered the farmers and land owners who signed easements said they did so because they knew it would be used as it has in other places. The sacred burials sites that were disturbed were just off of the reservation but still valuable, culturally significant and worthy of protecting. Intentionally digging up the ancestors in inexcusable!
It is crucial to tell what I have learned about BakkenCrude, which is the primary reason for the DAPL. Bakken is the most dangerous of all crude oils. It contains large amounts of expandable gasses such as Methane, Propane, and Hydrogen Sulfide. (h2S) h2S gas is extremely corrosive and deadly to any mammal exposed to it. It will eat away the inside of the steel pipes while the other gasses are pressurizing the line. In the train wrecks I have covered it has led to catastrophic environmental and human damage. 47 people were killed in Lac Magentic Can. When a train derailed blowing up most of the downtown area.

Aliceville Al. 11/14/13 Flight by SouthWings
In Aliceville Al. 26 train cars went in to the swamp. No one was hurt but 4 years later the swamp still has oil floating to the top. It will emulsify when hit with hoses and other methods of corralling the oil for vacuum trucks to suck it up. Chances are it will be there for several more years. A disaster under the Missouri River could be a threat to thousands of water users miles downstream.  (follow my work on Bakken Crude at The Bakken Crude Debate. )

During the interviews I learned about how this all started months ago. Standing Rock occupation isn’t something that just sprang up in the last few weeks. It started as a result of the deaths of several Eagles and as many as 15 Buffalo.

The survey company who was responsible for identifying for the alignment used poison to kill prairie dogs in the Right of Way. (ROW) It was a crystalline chemical they poured into the holes where it soaked up moisture from the soil and giving off deadly gas which killed everything in the hole. Problem was that some of the prairie dogs escaped and died out in the open where they were eaten by Bald and Spotted Eagles. 4 died I was told, 2 were sent to rehab and are still recovering, and 2 more were successfully rehabbed and released at the Standing Rock campground. We still see the Spotted Eagle hanging around.

These animals are revered and respected by the Standing Rock Sioux as well as all Native American cultures. Sacred Stone Camp was set up in protest of killing their cultural icons and breaking yet another treaty written by the US government. The killing of these animals and desecrating graves was a sign of how little respect the company had for them or their ways.

It wasn’t long before the entire nation was looking and the camps started to grow. It the 10 days I was in Sicangu Camp I watched the entire 3 camp community grow from a few thousand to over 8,500 and 280 nations represented. Now the world is looking and the camps are expanding daily to accept nations from around the world standing in solidarity. Not just to stop this Dakota Access Pipeline but to unite globally to stop the abuse of indigenous people and their resources. They came from Peru, New Zealand, Africa, and so many distant countries I couldn’t keep up with it all.

This has been the most inspiring time in my life. I was there when the world’s largest gathering of indigenous people gathered for the first time in history. The sound of prayer songs and drums resonated through the hills all day. At night the sounds came through the shadows like sentinels of the old ways singing to the world to come together for the protection of Mini Wiconi, The sacred Water of Life.

We need more people coming to the camp to bear witness as this unfolds into the harsh winter months. You see, the people have vowed to stay for the duration and are setting up long-term camps to house the Water Protectors and supporters. We need supplies to build hardened structures for cooking and feeding. We need canned and nonperishable foods and warm winter bedding and clothes. More than any of those things, we need your prayers and support. Support in the way of calling elected officials and reps to demand a stop to the taking of indigenous lands against treaties set long ago. The 1867 Ft Laramie treaty gave all of these lands and water to the Sioux Nation for “As long as the grass grows, the sun shines, the sky is blue and the waters flow.”  Now once again the government is using militarized police and National Guard to basically steal from the Sioux again! NO weapons have been seen, used, or confiscated by the water protectors. All militarization and use of weapons has been at the hands of US federal troops, State Troopers and private militia security goons.

Treaty law is international law that supersedes constitutional law. The US government has no right to take from them what was agreed to under international law. Call the UN and demand they take action as well.

As I write this I am packing to go back. Somehow I feel the need to tell more of this historic event as seen from the protectors eyes.  If you go to Standing Rock, do not go just as an observer. Go as a participant in the hopes of relieving some of the over worked helpers. Go to the kitchens and offer help in all of the camps. If able, go with the wood gathering crews for the fires. If you see trash, pick it up. Be a part of the moment not just an observer. Get to know the people and understand their ways. We are not there to tell anyone what to do but if asked we can offer our experience to the effort. It takes the entire village to survive the harsh winter conditions. Come be a part of this newly founded and always growing Village at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Aho, Mni Wiconi!