Standing Rock Etiquette
The Dakota Access Pipeline, which if completed, would carry about 500,000 gallons of crude oil per day from North Dakota's Bakken oil field to Illinois. The pipeline will be crossing the Missouri River just above the Standing Rock Reservation, threatening the water supply to over 18 million people who rely on this water for their very survival downstream. Reports say that the oil will not be used to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, but much of it will be exported. It will likely be used for fuel, made into cheap plastic products, or become an ingredient in herbicides which are sprayed on our food. Either way, the result is poisoning our planet and our people.
December 5, 2016, will likely be the largest event in recorded history of native and non-natives standing side by side to protect water. 1000 Veterans arrive Dec 4 and the Army Corps of Engineers has stated that anyone on the Oceti Sakowin main camp Dec 5 will be considered trespassing. Reports of the National Guard coming in on Dec 2, before the Veterans arrive, are also circulating. Concerns of violence on behalf of the Morton County Police and National Guard are high. The Water Protectors will not be swayed. They continue to call for thousands to stand in support with them. If you are so moved to go to Standing Rock, keep in mind that the short term visits have an impact on long-term resources. Be prepared. Please go to www.ocetisakowincamp.org and read their protocols.
The following is my perspective from personal experience. This is by no means all-inclusive. Please go to the orientation upon arrival. The orientation volunteers are doing an extraordinary job.
This is a peaceful demonstration. Absolutely no weapons are allowed.
This is not Coachella. The Chiefs are not wearing headdresses. This means: treat all the Elders as if they are Chiefs, because they might be.
This is a ceremonial prayer camp. Please, leave your ideas about making Molotov cocktails at home or don't come. Get up early and go to the prayer ceremonies. Prayer sets the tone for your actions and your day.
This is an Indigenous-led camp. This means follow, do not attempt to lead, assert your plans, or impose your schedule upon the community. Go to the 9 am orientation at the Dome, it's imperative.
- This is not Burning Man. This means do not bring your guitars, drums, and hula hoops. No face painting, no drugs or alcohol at all. Don't take pictures unless you ask. The Native Americans are also not there for your entertainment or training on how to start a fire. And this is not a social event, festival or vacation. Come to be of service.
Bring more than you take. This means bring your own food, only go to the kitchens if you absolutely need to, and the donation center is not an opportunity for you to pick out a new wardrobe. Also, if there are not 40 people around a campfire, there should be no wood burning. Resources are sorely needed for the long haul. Take a look at the supply list on the camp website and bring as much as you can to help out.
Be of Use. This means: get to work volunteering by 9 am and, if possible, don't stop until dark. Winter in North Dakota is a life or death situation. They need serious help to winterize. Go to the Volunteer and Resource center by the Sacred Fire near the main entrance road for opportunities to help. There is also a white RV being used as a whiteboard for the days projects in the center of the South side of the main camp, by three Tarpees with silver stove pipes.
Be honest. If you have stuff from your childhood that gets triggered when you are on the front line and you feel like lashing out, be honest and step back. The front lines are not a place to unleash your anger at authority or your Dad.
Be safe. There have been multiple rapes at camp. Buddy up, bring whistles and walkie-talkies and be aware of your surroundings.
Be smart. There are infiltrators at camp. Some have staged unsanctioned direct actions and led others to be arrested. Don't join in unless it is well organized and you see leaders you recognize from the morning meetings. Also, go to the legal tent at the top of Media Hill right after orientation. Without those forms filled out you will get lost in the cracks if arrested. Go to the Direct Action Training at 2 pm.
- Come with a clean heart. We are all angry, sad, or hurt. Allow prayer to have you be open. Come with a clean heart and be peaceful. Prayer is powerful.
So you have arrived and gone through orientation. You see people from all around the world standing beside you and it is exciting. The situation is also extremely serious. Please do not be tempted to stand around and chat for hours with people from other countries or your own small town who also happen to be there. Connecting with others is important and necessary especially if/when the camp is raided. But you can chop wood and talk too. Or walk to the prayer ceremony together with buckets of hand warmers to give out and talk. Which leads to the next question. Do you go to an event and risk arrest or not?
Here are some things to consider. Whatever you do, make your choice with a willing heart.
Large numbers are needed at every event. Action meetings start at 8am and most roll out between 8-10am. Being willing to be present and possibly be arrested is an extraordinary act of service. Thank you. It is a necessary risk the Water Protectors are willing to take and many, many, more are needed.
- Some people should not be at the front. Those are children and people who are likely to be triggered and react with anger and violence. If you are itching for a fight, stay home. Remember, your actions could cause harm to others by requiring a response from the other side. Do not have anything in your car which could incriminate you, such as a bat, jack knife, or heavy tools. Do bring blankets, snacks, and water in case your caravan is stopped for hours.
- If arrested, you will likely be held for 2-3 days unless you state on the legal form that you want to be bailed out (your emergency contact has to have the resources). If you "stay in" you will go through arraignment upon release and will not have to fly or drive back to Bismark, ND just for the arraignment and then again for the court date. Court dates are backed up for 4-5 months from now. If arrested expect to be strip searched, not fed for a long period of time, and not given a blanket at night. However, those who have been arrested have said,"It's not a big deal. I mean it is a big deal, but it's not." If you understand what that means, that you will live, you get through it, then you may be one who might consider being willing to be arrested.
- If arrested, the police can literally make up whatever charge they want, and they have. They charged Red Fawn with having a gun and firing three shots in the air. She was holding a pipe. She now faces twenty years. Although the charges are not likely to stick, she will in the meantime be imprisoned for weeks or months. If arrested and charged with a felony, and if the charges were to stick (which is not likely) your ability to travel internationally to some countries may be affected. Future employees will also be privy to your record.
- Supporters who do not wish to be arrested are also much needed. People who can bring blankets, hot soup, and firewood to an event are crucial. Supporters maintain the energy of the event. Keep in that mind that people who are supporting can also be arrested. Anyone at the camp can be arrested.
So if you go, you are taking a stand for Standing Rock, you are greatly appreciated. Make sure that you are going for the right reasons -- to be of service to others, however, and not just to make yourself feel good that you did something. There is so much to do...in freezing temperatures, it is not likely to feel good, and you may have only a short time, so you may not get as much done as you would like. No matter what you do, if you are of service, if you are respectful and prayerful and you give more than you take, you will have helped to fulfill upon the intention of Standing Rock, which is to stop the pipeline and regain Indigenous rights.
Now is the time for Americans to realize that it is no longer patriotic to ignore our faults and speak only about the greatness of America. Patriotism does not mean bending to the will of an oppressive government, when you know the decisions they are making do not benefit the people. The new patriotism means speaking up, showing up, and standing up for everyone's rights and against the horrific tragedies created by our government. Taking a stand for Standing Rock will be one of the most extraordinary experiences of your life and will make a difference for millions.
Thank you to all the supporters who donated over ten thousand dollars which enabled us to be supportive and donate a huge amount of winter supplies to the Water Protectors ( list of supplies will be published soon). Thank you!