(My Standing Rock posts are a diary of two trips James and I took to Standing Rock as, with the backing of our church, we protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. The first four posts come from around Labor Day, 2016. The remaining posts come from around Thanksgiving, 2016.)
We arrived at Sacred Stone Camp, which is the prayer camp of the three protest settlements. We unloaded our van of supplies, and by the time we were halfway through, the campers were cheering “Yay, Iowa!” They offered us fresh watermelon. The children especially liked the football we bought. The tribes are trying to erect a semi-permanent settlement here, regardless of what the federal court says on September 9. They are looking for hardware to help with all that—and after a while, they asked if we’d be planning to make a second trip to donate more. There’s a happy, even serene feeling at the camp–but as fall approaches, their need will only increase.
When we asked how we could best help the camp while we are here, they said they need folks to send camp dispatches, like this one. The protestors—or water protectors, as they call themselves—despair at how the local authorities have spread stories about gunfire and pipe bombs. They asked us to show how these protector camps are nothing but peaceful, that they have signs prohibiting guns—despite a citizen’s right to bear guns—to further make their point. When we volunteered to serve as human-rights witnesses on the picket line, they said we would not be allowed even to approach the line, if we hadn’t first been trained in non-violent protest. And when we told them about the pipeline arrests in Boone County, Iowa, their first question was whether those folks were behaving peaceably.
A sixty-four-year old man, with a prison record, told us that the tribes bear no grudge against the American people. “You’re from a Christian church,” he said. “Your religion is about forgiveness. Tell everybody that the Native Americans have forgiven you your transgressions. We’ve fought wars for you. We have joined your wars, with some of us never coming back, and now you’re taking our water.” He stopped talking then, because he’d begun to weep.
We left the main group, to set up our tent along the river. We watched a black snake catch a fish. A little while later, a young man approached, and offered us a handshake and a cigarette. He was showing us respect, he said, by giving us tobacco. He told us, meekly, that we had camped on a ritual ground, and that he would like us to move. We scrambled with our tent. We lifted it, without taking it down, and carried it up a hill while the wind tried to throw it. We felt that in a way both small and complete, we’d enacted the entire trespass and respectful protest, between settler and Standing Rock Lakota.
(Originally posted September 3, 2016)