FOR THOSE CONSIDERING A TRIP TO STANDING ROCK
WHAT IS NESSESARY TO KNOW, WHAT THEY NEED AND WHAT YOU SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR.
This is the most complete guide from one of our own tribe members about Standing Rock’s current situation, what the peaceful protestors need, what you should know before going and what to look out for. If you are planing to join for the Thanksgiving weekend, any other day or just want to help, please read this post carefully and preferably more than once.
Since we returned from Standing Rock, a lot of folks have reached out to ask if they should go, who they should connect with, and how best to help. The first answer to this question is to use all the available resources at www.ocetisakowincamp.org. Those folks have been doing this for months and even years while protesting other pipelines and projects, and, taking a step back, they have been engaged in this struggle for literally centuries. They have many resources available and have posted the most pressing needs online. This being an indigenous-centered effort, you should always check there first.
As an appendix to that, here is all the information I wish I’d had before we went out there, from the perspective of an outsider really wanting to help and wanting to make sure I didn’t show up as an oblivious tourist. In short, you don’t need to know anyone out there to show up and make a difference. You do need to take care of yourself.
1. Read every word of these four documents before you decide to go. Twice. http://www.standingrocksolidaritynetwork.org/resource-packe…
2. Get REALLY honest with yourself. Are you in good physical shape? Emotional? Can you contribute long hours, hard physical labor, and operate in uncertain conditions? Can you hack it in sub-freezing temperatures? Do you have a serious way to stay warm at night? Will the $$ that all of this preparation and travel is about to cost you be best spent putting you out there for a few days, or could you donate it to people who are going to be out there for months and months and could use it to make it through the winter? Are you ok with being in a support/service role and taking direction from others? But seriously — are you really ok with that? Are you self-aware? Are you ok with following rules even if you don’t understand why or disagree with them in some way?
3. These are some big, weighty questions that you should seriously consider. But beyond those, the answer to whether or not to go is — YES. Your support is needed and very welcome. There is work to be done for anybody who is willing to work, no expertise needed, and they will be grateful to have you.
4. Start fundraising or collecting donations of supplies before you go, and bring that with you. It feels good to show up with something and it is really helpful to people on the ground so they can make fewer trips to town. The two easiest things to bring are MONEY and FOOD. They are always, always needed, and the camp leadership can best decide what to do with them. ($$ donations should go to www.ocetisakowincamp.org. That is a legit, trusted organization with the entire movement’s priorities in mind.) Beyond those two staples, many people could use a cheap and easy way to heat their tents, yurts, etc. now that we’re in winter. These flower pot DIY space heaters are recommended by the folks out there — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzKbFzUEWkA. They are about $22 in materials each and work incredibly well. Other things to bring:
– Fire extinguishers
– Lowe’s gift cards
– Check www.ocetisakowincamp.org for daily & weekly requests
5. Bring enough food and water to sustain yourself and then some. Will they feed you if you are hungry? Yes. Does that mean that you should use those precious camp resources just because they are generous of spirit? No.
(Being radically self-reliant and leaving no trace are two great Burning Man principles to follow in this context. Not all of them are.)
6. If you are approaching Cannon Ball from the North, you must take Highway 6 down. 1806 is blocked off with big military barricades just north of the camp and you’ll have to drive back up 25 minutes and go back down and around. (This sort of thing changes all the time, so just be aware that your trip may take you in different directions.)
7. There are 3 camps. Oceti Sakowin camp (pronounced oh-CHET-ee SHA-koh-win, and translated as ‘Seven Council Fires’) is on the front lines, which means a couple of things — First, the elders are asking everyone who is willing to to camp there, as it is the most strategically important place to be in relation to the pipeline itself. Things to know about the camp — it could get raided at any time, day or night, and that could mean you getting arrested. In that camp there is also a big central fire that burns at all hours of the day and night. There is often loud drumming and singing over a loudspeaker until 2 or 3 am, and the loudspeaker starts again with prayers and announcements well before sunrise. Taking care of yourself includes getting good rest — there are areas of that camp that are farther from the loudspeaker, which I highly recommend, otherwise, Rosebud camp is just a 10 minute walk across a little bridge down the highway. Rosebud camp is on leased land, so you are in no danger of being arrested, and you can easily get to Oceti Sakowin camp for all the major activities. You can hear the loudspeaker only faintly, and earplugs block it out completely. But if you can — camp at Oceti Sakowin camp. Sacred Stone is the third camp. It is farther away and is accessible by a different road. I don’t know as much about that camp, but you can check it out on facebook.
8. There is a 9am meeting every morning in Oceti Sakowin camp for newcomers. It is at the green army tent right next to the biggest white dome in camp. GO TO THAT MEETING when you first arrive. No matter what. Even if you’ve done Occupy and No XL pipeline and other protests for years. This is an indigenous-centered camp, and no matter how experienced and open you think you are, you will learn things about how much space you take up as someone raised in American culture and how you can avoid that, plus how to be respectful and of service at all times. In fact, the more convinced you are that you don’t need this, the faster you should get yourself there. Everyone should go. Period.
9. There is a 2pm training most days for newcomers who plan on participating in direct actions. This is non-optional if you plan on going to the front lines — you MUST attend this before participating in anything. It is for your safety, the safety of those around you, and the integrity of the peaceful protest.
(Given that all that most people see on the news is footage from the front lines, it’s important to note that all direct actions that put you at risk for harm and arrest are entirely optional. They are highly encouraged, but those who want to come to Standing Rock and just play a support role are very welcome as well. If you are staying in Rosebud or Sacred Rock camps, there is no inherent danger to being in the camps other than from the below freezing temperatures or injury from labor, the same as anywhere else. As far as we know right now, the police can’t touch anyone over there. But — of course, that could change.)
10. There is usually another meeting at 10am, 11am, or 12noon to get people oriented to the direct action of the day and/or to talk about work priorities. Details are usually posted on the whiteboards at the main fire with the loudspeakers in Oceti Sakowin camp.
11. There is also an 8am community meeting in the big white dome that is for anyone who wishes to attend for news, updates, prayer.
12. HOW TO BE OF SERVICE:
After you attend the newcomers meeting, you can always go to the volunteer tent, which is right behind those huge whiteboards near the fire/loudspeaker in Oceti Sakowin camp. The volunteer tent managers ALWAYS have important things for you to do. “Important” can mean anything from washing dishes to moving hay bales to digging ditches to cooking to building to cleaning. If you have a special skill like body work, let them know, BUT — do NOT expect that you will get to only use your special skill. So many medics showed up the week we were there that there wasn’t nearly enough work to go around and some folks got cranky that they had to do other work. Be humble, be flexible, always.
13. FOLLOW THE RULES AND SUGGESTIONS. These include:
– No drugs or alcohol. Period. Ever. This is a site of prayer. The whole space is like being in church.
– No pictures AT ALL unless you have a press pass or a picture is specifically requested of you by a camp leader. If you take a picture of any ceremony or sacred fire, you will be asked to leave immediately. Plus, all three camps are sites of prayer, so literally anything could be in the “ceremony” category. Also, if you take pictures, post things on facebook, etc. you are creating evidence. That may sound like a vague threat if you’re not staying the whole winter, but photos from short-termers’ social media have been used against long-termers in their trials. A LOT of people are violating their hosts’ trust on this count. Just don’t do it. Leave your phone in your car to avoid temptation.
– Follow indigenous leadership at all times. This seems simple, but it is one of the things they have the hardest time with, probably because all of us go, “Well, of course” without having any idea about all the small ways we violate that. GO to the newcomers orientation and open your heart and your mind about your own blind spots.
– If you’re female-identified, wear a below-the-knee skirt at all times. You can wear layers of leggings, jeans, and snowpants underneath — a thin skirt that is easy to move in worn over those is fine.
– No dogs off-leash.
– No guitars, drums, or other loud instruments or singing around the campfire (the main fire or your own) unless you are specifically invited to. Those have a tendency to drown out the indigenous music and prayer that is happening — be respectful.
– If you have a GREAT idea — sit on that idea for 2 days. These folks have been out here for months, have been working against other industry projects for years, and have been engaged in this struggle for centuries. There is a tendency for people to show up and think they’re brilliant and have a bit of a savior mindset with their suggestions. Sit on that idea. Many of us (including yours truly) were raised to say everything that comes into your mind, especially around new IDEAS. We can’t help ourselves. This is an amazing place to experiment with silence, humility, and deference.
***IMPORTANT: If you find yourself wanting to break one of these rules, or thinking that one may not apply to you, or that the people making the rules must not be thinking everything through in quite the right way, make sure your default isn’t to give in to that urge. Everything you do casts a ripple. Someone sees you taking a picture, and they take it as evidence that they can too. And it subtly undermines the leadership of the camp. You come from a culture of thinking you know better. Of being hard-nosed innovators and asking forgiveness rather than permission. Experiment with following what was asked of you to the letter.
14. There are often public ceremonies, rituals, expressions, and meetings around the main fire and occasionally down by the water at sunrise, sunset, and after dark. Those are almost always open to anyone who wants to attend and can include water blessings, words of wisdom, music, dancing, storytelling, and more. Attend these! Don’t be shy, but also don’t be ostentatious in your participation. The name of the game everywhere is being both present and extremely humble. You are there only to watch, except when explicitly asked to participate. Only attend private ceremonies (in yurts, teepees, etc.) if invited.
15. Finally, though I really should have put this up at the front, given the centrality of this tenet:
THIS IS AN INDIGENOUS-CENTERED CAMP.
Let indigenous people talk first, ask the first question, make the decisions, and make sure you are inviting that mode of participation at all times. This is not about you. Roll around in how uncomfortable that may make you for a minute. There’s probably a little bit of, “Well, isn’t this just reverse racism? I’m here to protect the pipeline too — that’s a universal goal, not just one of the Native Americans. Why are there different classes of people at all?” Yes, but you are showing up to an indigenous-centered camp and protest. That is your choice — there are other ways to contribute. And the context in which you are being asked to show humility and deference is CENTURIES of settler colonialism.
I’m actually going to pause here since it is precisely that context that is probably making me think I’m the best person to describe and explain all of this. I am not. READ all of these documents (http://www.standingrocksolidaritynetwork.org/resource-packe…), ATTEND the newcomers training. Really — I learned so much in such a short time. I’ll be honest, I came in with a bit of an attitude of “I was raised in Berkeley so I’m SUPER culturally aware, and I’ve done protests for years, so I’m sure I can help them in so many ways. And look — I’m bringing medicine and heaters! The universe wants me to deliver the essentials.” See alllll the stuff in that?
One evening we were assigned to go to a kitchen to help out. The woman there asked me to wash dishes. It was close to freezing, the washing was to be done in a tub filled with water heated over the fire, and there was caked on grime on all the pans. As I rolled up my sleeves I noticed her and her family sitting around the fire, laughing and telling jokes. I was hit with a little wave of indignation that I immediately was embarrassed of, but was still wrestling with. Why did they need me here doing their dishes if they were just sitting around? Was I sort of like a servant in this situation? Is that how this camp works, bringing new folks in to do the dirty work?
That was when Big Mama higher self came out and said — take a niiiiice long look at the way you’re feeling right now. Get that feeling in between your fingers and toes and wash your hair in it. These folks are staying out here for the ENTIRE WINTER to protect this land not just for them, but for all of us. They’ve been laboring all day doing much harder and more dangerous work than you signed up for. And not only that, doing dishes is probably the easiest job that any servant of any color or background under centuries of white European colonial power ever had to do. This is literally the least I could possibly do.
We finished up the washing and called to the woman to let her know we were on our way out. She motioned for us to come over to the fire, told us how grateful she was, hugged us, had each of her family members hug us, and offered us food. In each little act of service, there is some healing. At this moment in history, we need a lot of acts of service.
That is why you should go to Standing Rock. To serve others. Hopefully way more than I did in the limited time I was there.
That’s all I’ve got. Thank you all for your service, in all the ways each of you are offering it around this struggle and others. Pray for everyone offering their own gifts, and pray for the people we are working against on this issue as well. Wish them well, wish them health — truly wanting that for people we don’t agree with is the high road.
Let’s stay there.
Original post here.