Standing Rock: Camp Story.


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Oh, I wish I was a writer. Where to start? Right now, I’m back home in Almont for a day, and it feels wrong, I’m homesick. For camp. Tuesday morning, we tossed some supplies in our van, made sure all the critters had access to food and water and took off. The first photo here is about an hour into the journey. Like everyone else, we avoided the barricaded 1806, taking 21 then 6 straight into the No DAPL camp. The sight as we crested the hill was overwhelming, tents, tipis, people, cars, and horses everywhere, stretched as far as you could see. We turned in, and as it was our first time, had a brief security check (looking in the cooler, basically), because of people trying to bring in alcohol and drugs. No problems, and we were waved off to camp as we chose. Every other car had their windows covered with “Standing With Standing Rock!” or similar, and often tribal names. We were humbled, and in awe by the flags lining the main road into camp. There are over one hundred of them, and flags dot the landscape at campsites all over the land. There seems to be one posthole digger though, as calls for it to show to plant another flag were heard regularly. :D

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We parked in the Oglala camp, then made our way to the council area, the large communal area set up for all the camps:

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That isn’t a great photo of the area, it’s much larger than this, and the kitchen pictured in the previous post is to the other end of this area. Rick couldn’t wait to talk or see anything, he wanted to head to the kitchen to cook, and as soon as we walked up from our camp, the call was put out for volunteers to help cook frybread. Rick was off like a shot:

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He did a great job of it, too. Everyone did, and everyone working in the kitchen performed amazing service, and worked their butts off, too. First it was frybread, then hot dogs, hamburgers, corn, buffalo, squash and hominy stew, and wojapi. When the camps were smaller, Standing Rock had requested a water truck and a couple other necessities from the state health department, and they obliged. That didn’t last long, as the cops ordered those necessities removed. It’s a bit silly to try that strong arm tactic against a sovereign nation.

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There’s EMS, Rez security, two huge refrigerated trucks, water tanks, water washing stations, and ranks of port-a-loos. There are tents filled with donations from people, clothing, blankets, school supplies, and sundries. No one goes in need of anything. Children play all over the place, running and laughing, many of them clutching soccer-sized balls donated by the Nez Perce Tribe. As I was wandering about with a camera, I had to check in to the media tent, and get my pass. That done, I wandered back to the communal area, looking to settle in, and was in time to hear a description of one Rob, from KFYR, described, and that security was looking for him, and he was forever banned from Standing Rock. I still haven’t heard what that was about, maybe when I’m back, if I remember to ask. People were gathering to listen, talk, meet, take photos, and do all the things people do when gathered together.

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The council fire was always kept going, and there was always someone in the main administration tent, talking, telling stories, or relaying news. Much of the time, there was an open mic, for anyone who wanted to sing or tell a story. The representatives of the Episcopal diocese in Bismarck, who had signed on to the cause early on were in the camp, reaffirming their support, and bringing donations.

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As that was going on, the Quinault Tribe started rolling in with their canoes, they planned a 3 day paddle trip to Bismarck.

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I should explain that the main road is constantly busy, people coming, going, coming back, bringing in supplies, people walking to and from, the warriors on horseback going to the construction site and coming back, and so on. It’s never still. Kind of like water.

Dennis Banks was there! Eeeeeeeeeee. And, the day before, he had been in the hospital, having had a heart attack. He spoke frequently, and greeted people. He spoke strongly and eloquently after the disappointing decision came down.

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There was so much joy, unity. People from all over were at the camps, with one notable exception – North Dakotans. I kept talking to so many people who were excited than any Ndakotans were there at all. If I could say anything at this point, it would be to urge all Dakotans, if you can, to come to camps. You don’t have to settle in for the long term, you don’t even have to stay the night, just come, meet people, talk with them, listen. Okay, I’m barely into the first two, three hours at camp, so I’ll split this story up. I’ll grab some tea, and start the next part while you all look and read.

Click photos for full size. © C. Ford, all rights reserved.

Comments

  1. says

    PZ @ 3:

    The Quinault showed up all the way from the Pacific coast, but there’s a shortage of North Dakotans? Weird.

    There were people from much farther away than the Pacific coast. We met people from Iceland, Brazil, various parts of Africa, the UK, and more. And people from all over the States. North Dakotans were seriously thin on the ground, that day, we might have been the only ones, outside of the Indians, of course. The hardest people to get through to are Ndakotans, most of whom don’t know any Indian person at all, and run on stereotypes. There’s intense bias against Indians here in Indian country, probably much worse than other places. You’ll find it’s that way anywhere there’s a sizable Indian population.

    People either rely on stereotypes and stereotypical sentiments, anywhere from ‘the only good Indian is a dead one’ to ‘noble savage’ to ‘aren’t you all dead?’ to ‘Indians, drunken leeches, all of ’em’, and so on. On top of that, many locals have swallowed the oil kool-aid, and there’s a whole lot of resentment brewing, people here thinking that Indians are preventing jobs and cash flow and all that jazz. Never mind that almost every oil job is being staffed by people brought in from elsewhere. It’s an old, old hate, and people don’t want to listen.

    Even the white farmers and ranchers speaking out against oil aren’t being listened to at all. The oil company is unbelievably aggressive, they have money, power, and serious propaganda. Right up from my tiny town, I can barely stand to look, the land is torn open for this fucking pipeline, ruthlessly ripped up, miles and miles of this cheap pipe laid out as far as you can see. But no one fights, they just take the money and turn away. It’s beyond heartbreak, and being home is so sad, I don’t have words. I want to go back to camp.

  2. says

    Me @ 6:

    There’s intense bias against Indians here in Indian country, probably much worse than other places.

    And as Rick reminded me, around here, you’ll often hear someone express that in this way: “I don’t want anything to do with those Prairie niggers.”

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