Standing Rock: Camp Story, Part 7.

And then…the rain came. No big deal at first, just a bit of rain. It didn’t stay a bit of rain though. People rushed to grab ponchos or trash bags, then went back to getting coffee and breakfast.


Before the rain got serious though, back when I was still sitting around the council fire (pictured above), everyone was having a quiet moment when a thin blonde woman rushed up and sat down two chairs over from me. A reporter of some type, clutching pen and clipboard, began asking questions of the young man next to me. I wasn’t paying much attention, until I heard him talking about Arvol Looking Horse, then I looked over in time to see the young man trying to make a point of spelling Arvol correctly, when she interrupted and hand-waved, saying “I can look it up later.” The disregard and disrespect was shocking, and it showed on faces, but she was oblivious. It was clear that she hadn’t taken so much as five minutes to talk to anyone, or to try and understand what was going on at the camps. Then she started asking the young man questions, attempting to find out who someone was, and she was describing badly, but it was clear to me she was describing Dennis Banks. So, I said “Dennis Banks. That’s Dennis Banks.” She stared up with a rather blank and confused face, and said, but the man kept talking about Dennis Banks. I stared for a moment, nonplussed, as did the others, then explained, “yes, he was talking about the court case, you know, in the ’60s – The United States of America vs Dennis Banks and Russell Means.” Still a somewhat confused look, then she scribbled something down, thanked me profusely and ran off. The quality of media coverage leaves one hell of a lot to be desired, and that’s the very least I could say. Everyone is welcome at the camps, but please, if you’re a completely clueless person, at least listen, don’t be an unconcerned hand-waver. I sincerely hope I don’t see Ms. Blonde I can look it up later again. Okay, back to the rain!








The rain got very serious. People were huddled under tents and canopies in the communal area. Every few minutes, a fall of water would come forcefully down off the canopy, driving people back. Finally, some people picked up the canopy and carried it over to the council fire. People quickly sat around the fire, which was stoked up to blazing hot, as people warmed up and dried off at least one side of themselves. We met a wonderful young man from Iceland, now living in Colorado. I spent time talking with a terrific couple from Colorado. The wind was picking up, and as water piled up on the canopy, it could come gushing down in sudden falls. As I turned to continue talking with the folks from Colorado, one such fall was driven by the wind straight down my back. Rick had to wring out the hood on my hoodie. :D People brought in stacks of ponchos, and I put one on. The kids from Wakpala who had arrived such a short time ago were going to have to leave, because as I explained to my neighbour, roads here don’t get slick, they get deep, and the main road into camp is fair steep. It was either leave now, or get stuck for a while. The main road was already blocked off, to prevent it getting badly rutted. We hadn’t planned on leaving just yet, but the weather was driving a decision. We headed back to our camp, wishing we hadn’t, as we were walking into 25 mph winds, driving slashing rain. Bent over double, we finally made it to our vehicle. We grabbed towels, tried to dry off some of the thorough drenching we took. We sat quiet for a while, thinking about what to do. Flag poles were bending, and a number to tents were collapsing against the wind.








We finally set out for home, very slowly.






Leaving camp was a wrench. You feel, deeply, that this is where you belong, to this earth, to these people, to all people. There was talk of yestercenturies, yesterdays, nowdays, and futuredays. The flow of events, one river, many currents and tributaries. We’ve been away from camp for two days, but it feels like two weeks. We’re packing up today and heading back out. See you all again when we’re back home at camp.


  1. says

    The quality of media coverage leaves one hell of a lot to be desired, and that’s the very least I could say.

    Back in time, picture an advisory board -- a bunch of ageing white guys consulting for a technology start-up. On the board are mathematician, physicist, entrepreneur, artist, programmer, professor -- a pretty good mix with a very wide range of experience. At some point someone comments “you know, the press gets everything wrong about tech” and I comment “yep, they get everything wrong about security, certainly.” Mathematician pipes up, “math too.” We went around the table and at the end mathematician sums it up: “other than that they can recognize Kim Kardashian, the press gets everything wrong.” I chime in, “has anyone checked with Kim?”

  2. says

    I suspect the original design of tipis* was driven by convenience but I bet they’re a lot more aerodynamic than the standard GP medium “canvas block ‘o sail.” I remember setting up GP mediums when I was in the army; gah, those things were unmanageable in a storm.

  3. says

    Tipis are a marvel of solid engineering. Cool in summer, warm in winter, and solid as could be. They stood unmoving in the winds, which were vicious, and taking down one tent after another.

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    It seems there’s rain and there’s RAIN and you had the latter.

    About the reporter: It’s one thing whether her employer pays her for taking time to do her homework and doing proper research and journalism or just cooking up a quick report. Another is arrogance and contempt. I’m not defending her, rather I’m saying not only may she be “guilty” but her employer may be as well.

  5. stellatree says

    All the people taking care of each other sounds just wonderful. The look it up later lady, not so much. But hopefully she was just a minor blip in the community feeling.
    Thanks for giving us this intimate view of a beautiful place and people, glad you are able to return. Also thanks for introducing me to ICTMN, I’m appreciating their coverage and linking my friends to it.

  6. rq says

    Yes, what stellatree said about all the people taking care of each other -- a wonderful community atmosphere!
    I love how your pictures capture first the wind, and then the rain -- very evocative and dynamic! And yet no one’s spirits seem dampened in the least. Too much interpersonal warmth shining through for that to happen, I suppose!

    Anyway, stay safe and I hope you get back there soon enough for your own comfort!
    Again thank you for sharing the experience so well. It means a lot to me, as much as that may matter. You’re among the best!

  7. Menyambal says

    Love the pictures! Especially the young person moving with such purpose.

    Tipis are cone shaped. If I recall correctly, some scientists built instrument pods to place in the path of tornadoes, and the best shape turned out to be a cone -- flatter than a tipi, but they didn’t have to fasten them down. The only thing that could have been better would have been a faceted cone, rather than a smooth circle, to break suction on the back side. And that’s what a tipi is, due to the poles inside, a faceted cone, the best thing for the wind. (And the cone/triangle structure is the strongest, too.)

  8. Lofty says

    From what I’ve seen of reporters most are on a mission to make the world agree with their biases. The very last time I had contact with one was for a cycling article. The reporter got every fact wrong, the photographer cut my head off and the magazine stank of chemical ink. A friend of mine who read the article said the reporter “got my tone right”. Thanks.
    Anyway, I hope the chorus of voices is loud enough to make the rest of your country hear what your people are saying.

  9. Patricia Phillips says

    Reporters, sigh…alas I have noticed very few Americans have much of a grasp on contemporary Indian issues, recent history, law, etc. Most reporters just don’t have the background to understand this stuff, and for some reason most don’t try to get a handle on the basics of part of the background of reporting on events like this.

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