Several members of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter have made the trip to the Oceti Sakowin camp at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Below are some reports from the site:
Nov. 21, 2016 (John Buchser):
Last night was pretty surreal. My wife, Linda, and I have been at Rosebud Camp, on Cannon Ball River just across from Oceti Sakowin camp. Maybe 3,000 folks at the three camps, growing a lot Saturday and Sunday with folks from all over US. Linda has been sorting clothes for three days, and I have been buying/bringing 2x4s and camp stove supplies (pavers, pipe, etc) on a trailer from Bismarck (2 tons/trip), taking the long way around since the military has closed the shorter route with a blockade. Splitting wood for exercise.
Thursday, the northern edge of a storm blew through, and the unseasonably warm weather ended. Dropped to maybe 5 degrees F overnight, wind was blowing 20-30 mph steady and that persisted thru Friday. Friday warmed to 32 or so; wind abated quite a bit. No longer nice camping weather.
Right before dark last night, a car drove thru camp hollering “water protectors to the bridge.” From what I could tell, well over half of folks headed that direction, between 1-3 miles north up the road. About the same time, a small aircraft, no lights, began buzzing around camp. Every night to the NE of camp, there is a line of high-intensity lights that are on all night, to make sure we don’t get too close to the pipeline construction. Last night, there was also a bright glow in the distance, at the bridge that marks the line between the military presence and the unarmed volunteers from every tribe in the U.S.
An hour after dark, a helicopter joined the plane and buzzed by the peaceful camps until after midnight. It felt like a war zone. I could not sleep. After midnight, just the plane kept buzzing about, but not so low to the ground.
Thanks to the link below (start about 50 minutes in — see my Facebook page) and reports from folks this morning, it appears the military boxed the water protectors in on the bridge with so much tear gas and water cannons they could not leave. Linda had come down with a really icky lung virus that’s making its way around camp, and she is scheduled for eye surgery next Monday, so we decided to start heading back today. Showers in Eagle Butte! So we went back to Oceti Sakowin camp to share some tobacco and a few remaining things we had to donate. Her co-worker and longtime “clothes sorter” named Ghost was in on the action last night. He was hit six times with rubber bullets, which broke a rib. One of the bullets hit the little headlamp that always hangs on his neck. Well, that must have been his lucky charm as he stood on top of the barricade. A rubber bullet hit that headlamp and did not puncture his trachea.
I felt very sad leaving. Still do. It is like a big family. As new folks arrive, everyone is extraordinarily helpful. A small car with five students arrived from Tennessee, driving straight through, camped next to us and watched last night from the hill above the bridge. New arrivals stopping by to chat: Another car driving straight through from Ohio. Two 30-somethings from San Francisco, following up a cross-country Tesla shuttle Minnesota to LA for repairs (yes, there are enough charging stations!).
Many folks from New Mexico. My old squeeze Emmy is there, did not run into her. Lady from Gila, we still need to mail her letter.
The brightest spots in my own stay were the people I worked with. Paul, who owns his own company, was supervising 20 or so workers, building with not much more than straw, 2×4, nails and screws to help folks survive the brutal winter that has started. Alex is leading the eight-person stove crew. A tepee burnt up (not the first) a few nights ago, and one fellow had pretty bad carbon monoxide poisoning. Paul lassoed about $400 of gift cards for me to spend at Lowes (I know 3 or four folks there too now), and the need has been sufficiently clear for me to spring another $2K of my own. Alex and crew are doing great triage.
I got media credentials, but it is hard to really document photographically what is happening. Must have permission from all folks in photos, cannot photograph teepee outside without permission. No inside photos of anything, as 300+ folks have criminal charges and we don’t want supporting evidence on any of those folks. Cannot photograph horses without permission (bloodlines going back hundreds of years). Beautiful horses, exquisite bareback riders. Got some good dawn photos across Cannonball river of Oceti camp.
No lives lost to my knowledge. Lots of BS coming out of the local police. Hard to actually believe them when they say the protectors are starting fires, when it is the military’s own compression grenades starting fires that the protectors are putting out. There is a 1/2 mile wide burn scar on the hills above camp, the police started it a while back, but the wind changed direction.
Very good camp practices in effect as far as I could tell. Lots of porta-potties, all with sanitizer, maintained every other day. Pits of compost. Crews making composting toilets for when the cold really hits. Seven or more big kitchens. Lots of people working at something. Propane truck filling tanks.
As the temps get colder, the small tent use will decrease, and folks will be in bigger tents or teepees with stoves. Lots of focus on making sure elders are taken care of. Great entry and exit monitoring 24 hours a day. No drugs, weapons, or alcohol. I did not hear a single shot fired while there five days. Someone carrying a kitty abandoned in a snowstorm on the way up. new school construction using traditional methods to complement a bus.
About 80 barrel stoves in process of being installed safely. Will be the need to re-setup lots of teepees, they are well suited to working without stove with small fire in middle, they draw smoke out if set up right.
The camp will need lots of wood. The young guys got a kick out of how a weightlifter (me) could take a splitting maul and whack the local hardwoods. Semi-trucks full of uncut wood disappearing into piles of stacked wood.
Jim Klukkert has set up a means of funding the stove crew. I’d be happy to take some money to help defray my out-of-pocket for the Oceti camp supplies – I knew there would be need and sure enough! Lowes guys are great at loading pallets and unloading wallets.
Mni Waconi! Or as we say in New Mexico, our water is our life!