Okay, this is the 2nd part of being back at Očeti Sakowiŋ camp on Wednesday, the 28th September. First part is here. The photos are full size, click for readability. It took a considerable amount of restraint to stop myself from titling this post: White People, Please, Sit Down and Shut Up. As I have mentioned before, many times, you’d never know I was any part Indian going by looks. I’m quite white, and and right now, I’d be happier if I dyed myself purple or something, anything to be dissociated from the behaviour on the part of some white people at the camp. Standard Disclaimer: there are a lot of white folks at the camps who are terrific people, helping out, and being a good and important part of the community. Unfortunately, this does not mitigate the behaviour of other white people.
The rules, detailed above, have been in place, but they are now written out and emphasised throughout the camps, and still, white people are managing to be utterly oblivious, and continue to break them, because, well, those rules, they can’t mean me, right? Yes, they mean you, oh great white crunchy saviours.
It’s no secret that a good amount of young white people flocked to the Red Warrior camp early on, months ago. That’s fine, but white people, you really, seriously need to sit down, shut the fuck up, listen, learn, pay attention, and figure out how respect works. Respect is not something which is owed only to white people.
There were even more young blonde women in camp, sporting dreadlocks. Perhaps that’s some sort of attempted connection to Celtic roots, I don’t know, but many of these young women were waltzing about the communal area in full privilege blindness, seeming to think this was a crunchy white person nature camp. It isn’t. It’s not considered terribly respectful to walk around the communal area with one breast exposed because your two year old child might want a drink, either. A tiny bit of sense can go a very long way. A lot of young white people are duly fired up about issues, and that’s fine, but where is your respect for doing things the Indigenous way? These same young white people are continually advocating for going out to the DA work sites and protesting in a decidedly non-Indigenous manner. They talk constantly about going up to “the front lines”.
That happened while we were there on Wednesday morning. Much agitation about going out to the “front lines”. A whole lot of young people went out, and they didn’t come back. They were all arrested, with one exception. One of the very crunchy, “nature camp” young women, white, took the open mic and was trying to explain the arrests, and what happened, then backtracked to why she was there, speaking. She had taken her toddler with her, and said she was about to be arrested when she brought her child out, and asked what would happen to her. The cops decided to let her go, rather than place her child in the system, since she’s not from here. As she was saying all this, a furious young Native woman, standing by the rule boards in the first photo, slammed her hand down on the appropriate place on the board, and yelled at her for taking her small child, and not paying attention to the rules. The young crunchy woman muttered something, dropped the mic and took off. To say that white people need a lesson in figuring out respect is an understatement, to say the least. This is not your nature camp, and any retaliation won’t land on you, it will land on the people who live here. We don’t need white leaders, we don’t need white saviours, and we don’t need the damn near impenetrable shield of obliviousness so many white people walk around with.
After the arrests, Phyllis Young had something to say. She started out by saying she was going to go easy this time, apparently, the day before, she had been absolutely infuriated by all the front line talk and more. In particular, she seriously dislikes front lines. I agree with her, front lines is a term of war. Ms. Young talked about understanding warmongering, she was a warmonger in her youth, she was at Wounded Knee in the ’70s. That’s not what is happening here and now though, or at least, it’s not what is supposed to be happening here and now. Ms. Young talked about white people playing saviour, and that in doing so, they had only one frame of reference, that of war. The collective memory of white America is nothing but war. There’s nothing else. This is not in any way helpful to all the people at the camps, it is not in any way helpful to all those who actually live here, and who will have to live with the consequences of stupid actions. Ms. Young wanted to know who was going to come up with the bail money, who was going to get everyone out of jail. Who was going to pay the court costs, the fines that will be imposed. I’m willing to bet it won’t be the wannabe white saviours. There’s also the issue of young Native people ending up with a criminal record. White people might consider that some sort of badge of honour, but need to remember they are white. A record won’t impact them nearly to the same extent it will affect a person of colour, especially a person of colour living on a reservation. FFS, is it all that much to ask white people to bloody think?
There have also been pro-pipeline infiltrators in the camps, white people, natch. Again, there’s some young white person agitating, talking about needing to go out to the “front lines” and setting up a time and place. A second person sits up on a hill with a telescope, and informs the cops of the destination. The cops get there first, everyone gets arrested, and no one makes it back to camp. As I mentioned in the first part, the presence of cops has been seriously amped up, and they have a monster mobile command center just past the turn off to Sacred Stone Camp. They have militarized vehicles, SWAT, and are running around with assault rifles. Indigenous people know we cannot afford to make this a war, cops and others are just waiting for an excuse. White people may see all that as a challenge, but that’s entirely the wrong point of view to have at the camp.
In conclusion, white people, please, I fucking beg of you, stop. Just fucking stop. Sit down. Listen. Learn. Pay attention to the rules. Understand that you are an ally, but also understand that you have no particular stake in what happens at Standing Rock. After this, you get to go home and pat yourself on the back for being a “good” white person. Before you deliver that pat, it would be useful to figure out what constitutes a good white person, a good ally. Understand that it is not your camp. Understand that this is not a war, and it’s certainly not up to you to make it one. Understand that you are not a saviour of any kind, nor are saviours being sought. Understand that you are still thinking in a completely colonial way. Understand that colonialism got us into this situation, it won’t help get us out. Learn respect. And please, stop being so damn embarrassing.
For all you wonderful people who are making things or have things to send, this is where:
For those of you who have things to send, this is where:
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
attn: Johnelle Leingang
North Standing Rock Ave
Fort Yates, North Dakota, 58538
Much, much, much love, thanks, and appreciation. It might be a small thing to you, but it’s in no way small at all, your generosity and love shines through.