by Jennifer / Deep Green Resistance
I have traveled to Standing Rock twice now. The first time was on September 16 – 20. On the first trip I went with my mother. We camped at Rosebud and spent a great deal of time in the kitchen preparing food and talking with members of the camp, indigenous and non-indigenous allies. We could hear prayers and drumming in the Oceti Sakown Camp well into the night. The atmosphere was of constant prayer and felt celebratory. There were fireworks on the first night of our stay. I visited Sacred Stone and the “Overflow,” Oceti Sakowan, camps. Between Rosebud and Sacred Stone a women’s lodge was being constructed, with the permission of the elders.
The second trip was on October 29 – November 2. I went with acquaintances and we camped in the Oceti Sakowan. We fed ourselves, and provided our own shelter. The only time I ate outside of our camp was when I went to do dishes at Rosebud. Surveillance was present on the hill overlooking the camp: flood lights, drones, plane helicopter circling. I did not take pictures. The camp itself was much quieter. I attended non violent civil disobedience training, a requirement for all new arrivals. I filled out forms with legal and prepared for the possibility of NVCD action.
I also went to an orientation for the medics. Currently a Medic tent, herbal/alternative remedy, and a body work tent have been established with a mental health group and center in formation. Meetings for the camp are held every morning and in a truly respectful and democratic manner. All voices are heard. From 2-3 hours of work a day are expected to be given to the collective. I participated in water ceremony by invitation. I gave my drum when it was asked for, to be in sweat lodge. I visited Sacred Stone, and spoke with a keeper of the sacred fire who had just returned to camp, having closed down her life a half a continent away to be at Standing Rock.
Building for the winter was well underway. Between Sacred Stone and Rosebud on the Standing Rock Reservation side of the Cannonball, the women who were building the women’s lodge had returned and were well established; the lodge was complete. Rosebud looked the same physically, but many people who I remembered had left while some remained. I had a brief conversation with a Episcopalian Minister letting me know that 300 faith leaders were answering the call to come to Standing Rock. Over 500 arrived the day after our departure.
I was physically cold, in pain, and sleep-deprived during the stay. Monday was particularly difficult and windy. Recent tests indicate I most likely have a severe form of arthritis. Fortunately be were camped by some trees and able to create a bit of a wind break. If you are planning to go, be prepared for harsh conditions and be realistic about your limitations and how to deal with them.
I have attended multiple Wednesday evening updates at Four Winds in Denver. I have learned a great deal about the legal and on-the-ground struggles, not only at Standing Rock but historically, by attending updates. These meetings have also led to engagement with an organizing group of women who coordinated Four Directions March and Prayer in solidarity with Standing Rock and on Indigenous Peoples Day (transforming Columbus Day), prayer and ceremony for Murdered and Missing Sisters, and on election day will be holding a Million Mothers March in Denver. I have been able to engage in support work by request and have been able to offer air time through WomynAir and the AM News Magazine on our local community radio station KGNU to increase awareness and notify the public when it is appropriate for them to attend.
In Conclusion: Standing Rock is a functional, resilient community of resistance. Standing Rock is prayer and ceremony and community. If there is anything that I have gathered from having been at Standing Rock it is this. Prayer and ceremony unite the people to the land, air, and water; to each other, to our ancestors, to community, to action. It is my belief, after my experience of being at Standing Rock, that this foundation gives humans the strength and sanity to face ourselves, our communities, life, and to continue to take action in defense of life. Words fail. I will continue to listen.