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!