Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Water is Life: Recap of Our Visit to Standing Rock

First of all, I want to give humongous thanks to everyone that donated supplies for us to take! We ended up with so much that we did in fact have to leave some behind. We will be shipping those items to the camp or possibly bringing them on a second trip (scroll all the way to the bottom for information on that if you're interested).

I won't be writing up a super long post about my personal experience at Standing Rock this past week and how it made me feel. If anyone is interested in hearing about those stories, I welcome anyone to strike up a conversation about it with me (but not here in the comments, either).

What I *do* want to post is just a quick bit of what was there, how we were able to contribute, and some other information that was shared with us while we were there. If you are only interested in how you can help without actually going - scroll to the bottom where I will post NEW links to help the camp that we actually stayed with (it was not the Sacred Stone Camp that I had been posting links to before we went). The camp we stayed at is called Oceti Sakowin.

Everything we'd need to stay there for an extended time was there and it was very welcoming. Everything was free and shared, and they let you know right away that you can stay where you like for as long as you like and that you can take whatever you need. They just ask that you try to give more than you take (I also later learned that this is one of the Lakota values, generosity). So, if you are considering going, you really should plan to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Here's what we saw there:

There are donation tents right near the entrance to the camp. It's quick and easy to unload your donations when you get there.

A sizable area with coats, sweaters, pants, shoes/boots, gloves, hats, scarves, sleeping bags, and blankets organized into separate areas. Coats were all on hangers and displayed almost like it were a store in a tent. We took some blankets for our tent because we didn't have any and didn't realize how cold it would get at night. I grabbed a vest to help keep me a bit warmer as I didn't bring a coat with me. There weren't many sleeping bags, so I'd guess that is something they are hoping to get more donations for.

Another sizable area. Similar to the clothing area - though I didn't step into this area because I had plenty of foods that I brought - I presume that all kinds of foods were available. I know they had canned goods, produce, etc. They also have kitchens in different areas, one of which we helped to move a donated stove into.

It is available and they have their own truck to filter their own water! Where we ended up camping, there were two enormous jugs of water that we saw people use all day long. They were so large we didn't see them have to refill them at all for the entire duration of our stay.

There were people chopping wood all day in a few places, one which was designated as wood for their sacred fire (it's been burning 24/7 since this #NoDAPL movement was started). One of the other firewood spaces was in the Oglala camp, which Gerardo ended up in for a good hour or so to help chopping wood. People drove around the camp to help distribute the firewood to people, including us.

This space had about 5 or 6 tents, and although we had no need to make use of any of it during our stay, their website says: "We have a Medics Camp to provide basic health care & an emergency response team with trained medical professionals". There was also a sign that said they have wellness counseling services. Gerardo, Angie, and Jessy all seemed to love the tea that they had at a station out in front of this area (I didn't have any because it had marshmallow in it, which is not vegan). Water was also available here.

There is a large hill in what I would consider the front of the camp (near the more prominent entrance) upon which they've installed quite a bit of solar equipment. You can charge your phones or other devices and there is a WIFI connection, though I was told that they are recommending that people don't use it because your devices could get hacked (I assume they meant by the police/military out there). Anyone who will be shooting photo or video for an organization is supposed to check in at the media area and obtain a media pass. Speaking of cameras, there are certain things that are not allowed to be photographed/recorded; if you plan on bringing a camera, it's probably a good idea to look into or ask about the guidelines (more info here http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/protocols).

LGBTQ community
The Standing Rock Two Spirit Camp is a place for LGBTQ persons to gather and communicate. I did not interact with the community as I'm not LGBTQ (not that I *can't* communicate because of, I just didn't happen to), but I'm sure this would serve as a valuable community for any person who is.

The big white dome seemed to be the place for meetings: orientations, trainings, etc. were scheduled on a daily basis. We didn't make it to an orientation; our first day we arrived too late for it and on Tuesday I was the only one that woke up early enough for it but didn't want to go alone. It probably would have been super helpful to get to know the resources available to us and also where to go to help volunteer.

The fire is going 24/7, as I said above. They have prayers every morning and night. There is a man on a microphone who makes announcements for: people that are looking for or offering rides to the nearby towns (and not-so-nearby towns... some were going to Wisconsin, New Mexico, etc.), people who have court dates for having been arrested during frontline operations, other general announcements, and he cracks some silly jokes throughout the day. Water, tea, and coffee could also be found here near the fire area.

Yes, they have a security team with radios and they say that they are trained. You pass through their security team on your way in or out. They are very friendly people.

This is where you go to sign up for legal protection in case you go to a frontline operation and get arrested. They use donated funds to help bail out the frontline water protectors and cover any legal fees for court dates.

The signs in front and around the camp notify all that the camp is ALCOHOL/DRUG free. No alcohol or drugs are allowed in the entire camp.

No weapons of any kind are allowed.

These are non-violent camps. They are about peace and prayer. They call themselves water protectors, not protesters. They do not antagonize the police and they do not promote or accept violence. There are daily trainings for new protectors at 2pm and you are required to attend a training before going out for any frontline operations.

You are welcomed to help out in just about any way that you can! When we went in search for things to help with, we were told that day that they needed people in one of the kitchens to help wash dishes or help with construction work that was going on in the Oglala camp area. This is what we ended up doing: helped unload wood from trucks, duct-taped parts of a tent together to get it ready for a wood floor, chopped firewood, helped move framing into a tent for them to start building a floor, unloaded large bags of clothing and helped stuff this excess clothing into the framing to serve as insulation under the floor, and then helped move a small old stove out of the Oglala kitchen and move a full size donated oven into the kitchen. After these things we went on a prayer walk with what ended up being probably around 900 people.

Yes, they have them. There are plenty of port-a-potties all around the camp. If you don't like those, there is a casino some miles down the road (about a 7 minute drive I'd say) that has very clean bathrooms. There were showers at a marina further down that same road - but they closed them up the first night we were there because of the cold temperatures (they're closed for the winter). I just read on their website that they have access to showers at the Cannon Ball Community Center (this super small town is even closer than the casino) from 9a - 2p every day. We just didn't shower because the marina ones were closed and they hadn't gotten access to the community center yet as far as I know. It wasn't so bad :P

There were a lot of people who had their dogs with them. :)

They have a school for children that meets home school education standards.

The camp we were in was "Oceti Sakowin" (which means Seven Council Fires). You can donate to them directly via paypal: http://www.paypal.me/ocetisakowincamp
You can also donate supplies, here is the supply list for this camp: http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/donate

They ABSOLUTELY need PEOPLE to go and help! There is a lot they are trying to do to get ready for the winter (which is pretty much already there now). The overall feel at the camp is very safe. The police can be seen on the hills all day and they are flying planes and helicopters over all day every day, but if you don't sign up for the direct action frontline operations, you should be quite safe.

We've started a new movement called Strong&Useful that is currently focused on helping #NoDAPL. Please see the new section of our website for more background information on the cause and on how you can help.