Here is my best attempt at an update on our (me, Will Parrish, and others) experience in ND at Standing Rock. Please forward on to anyone who is interested. In the meantime, I am doing my best to move to cloud city, as in set up a facebook account to be more efficient in participating with everyone in AV and beyond. Feel welcome to share this to any degree, thanks.
I am limiting mention of other people involved to be respectful of their privacies. I mention Will Parrish, I feel confident he is o.k. with this. Please know that many other folks from Mendocino C. have been involved in significant ways.
Will, myself and another fella from Covelo left for ND in my star trek shuttle/cheap minivan full of donated supplies on Nov 14th. All donations were gathered and organized thru the Mendosolidarity group. We arrived about 3 days later at the Red Warrior Camp, I think it is also the Oceti Sakowin camp, or they are co-joined camps. We brought a wood stove which we helped to install in a Tipi previously set up to accommodate Mendo folks. We arrived on the first 'cold' day, it never warmed beyond near freezing ambient temperatures.
All donations were received with appreciation and seemed to be put to immediate use. In particular, the Oxygen supplies that we brought made a huge difference for the medical team as they had been working without any oxygen for the past several months. I was told there have been a lot of asthma patients and other breathing emergencies associated with tear gas inhalation.
Most activity at the camp has been winterizing construction for tents, yurts, tipis, etc. In most cases what I saw was construction of raised floors in tents, plywood on top of 2x6 framing filled with straw. Firewood gathering and associated processing has also been a major activity.
The camp is large, accommodating several thousand people. Organization is somewhat difficult to track, but is certainly present in an effective manner, including regular meetings and trainings and accessible structures for media, medical, building, volunteering, donation receiving, food serving, etc.
We were quickly involved into the working structure by attending one of the daily new-arrival orientation presentations. This orientation was very effective at giving a broad based perspective of what is going on regarding resistance of the DAPL pipeline immediately and with a historical perspective. It also provided an excellent crash course in cultural sensitivity and functioning as a non-indigenous ally. Involvement in any other skilled work also required attendance of an orientation. I attended an hour long medical orientation to be able to volunteer as part of the medical crew, for example.
All campers were requested to provide personal information to the legal defense team upon arrival whether or not they intended to be involved in direct actions. They have a well staffed and funded legal infrastructure to support all water protectors.
I have split about half of my time between activities at the camp and visiting my family in ND. One of my roles has been linking up with local supporters who have made themselves available to pick up and transport jailed supporters back to the camps after being released from jail. People have been placed in jails across the state; I'm not sure if that is a deliberate tactic or a result of overflow. In any case, people who are jailed take the additional risk of being exposed to life threatening weather upon release from custody. I have not yet had to transport anybody.
The support from locals has been very heart warming. Most people I've talked with seem to understand that the historical track record of capitalism vs. indigenous people has always favored money over culture; they seem to side with Standing Rock without knowing all the facts. However, I've definitely talked with people who are quite the opposite. The local media only reports a one-sided story in favor of the pipeline project and seems to focus on support for local law enforcement. Two weekends ago there were pro law enforcement rallies held in Bismarck, claiming to be unassociated with the pipeline dispute.
I attended a local meeting in my home town of Valley City, ND to discuss the dispute. Its intention was to discuss what the facts were and to pose an open question of whether or not the Standing Rock reservation had a valid argument. It was attended by about 20 people. The demeanor out here is about three steps back from the progressive perspective we are used to in Mendocino County and especially Anderson Valley. However, people were open minded and genuinely wanted to understand what is going on.
I gave a brief presentation on the importance of ending the legacy of colonial exploitation and genocide, what it means to be an ally as a descendant of colonial (non?)culture and why that is important to me. I also described my experience at the camp on Sunday night when law enforcement engaged in well documented use of excessive force on protesters at the highway bridge adjacent to the camp.
Sunday night was an action that as far as I know was intended to insist that law enforcement remove their blockade from the bridge which forces all traffic to take an alternate route to Bismarck. This adds more than 45 minutes of driving each way and has made life difficult for many Standing Rock residents, especially elderly and sick who access many services in Bismarck. It has also significantly disrupted business at the nearby casino.
I did not participate directly in the protest, but I believe Will did, or at least was observing from nearby and could give an account of what took place more immediately. Additionally, there was a Facebook live feed of events. Democracy Now gave a pretty good report of what happened on their Monday edition. Many people were sprayed with water via fire-hose at below freezing ambient temperatures and required hospital treatment for severe hypothermia.
I was driving to the camp from Valley City at the time and saw several ambulances enroute to the camp, all of them had to take the extended detour route; the nearest ER is in Bismarck.
I spent several hours in the medical area mostly staying out of the way and assisting where I could, as I am still new to their process. I learned a lot this way and was impressed with their organization. They had a decontamination area where individuals were stripped of wet/tear gas clothing and provided with dry clothes and heat blankets (like those mylar things). After decontamination, people were triaged for their injuries and escorted to warm yurts based on their needs. The primary medical space was reserved for people with core injuries, another was dedicated to extremity injuries and another provided space for warming up. Kitchen crews provided ongoing hot liquids and food, and a school bus shuttled people to the nearby casino to have a warm space and to get showers if needed. Several ambulances came from several different districts in the area. I saw several Standing Rock ambulances, Kidder County and Mobridge ambulances. I personally witnessed at least 4 transports; I can't be certain but it seemed to be people with a combination of hypothermia and blunt force injuries (rubber bullets?).
The press conference by the Morton County Sherriff department claimed there were no medical emergencies associated with their use of force. They repeatedly claimed their tactics were a response to 'agressive' actions by protesters.
These two statements were significant to me. First, the claim regarding medical emergencies was either a deliberate lie, they were alarmingly misinformed, or their emergency communications infrastructure is very disconnected. There were something like 14-17 transports from that incident, and one elderly woman experienced cardiac arrest on the bridge and was revived by protector medics (democracy now, Monday 11/21).
The claim of justification for the use of force was suspiciously non-specific. As an EMT I know that any time I make an intervention I am required to document the event including what/why/when specific information. I know that law enforcement is required to do this as well, at least regarding discharge of a firearm. It seems to me that a responsible account of use of this level of force would warrant specifics well beyond a vague descriptive term. Ex. “At time --:-- this event occurred and we responded with this particular action”. They offered no such account.
If one assumes that some kind of intervention was required, their choice to create life-threatening conditions by spraying individuals with water in below freezing ambient temperatures seems additionally irresponsible to the broader local population. These actions resulted in the need for so many ambulances that had a regular medical emergency occurred I wonder what the response times would’ve been like for local people in the districts these EMS agencies regularly serve.
Overall, the experience has been positive, the mood in the camps is genuinely uplifting, and there is a lot of optimism towards an outcome in favor of the Standing Rock people.
Thanks to everybody for their support. The best link I have for further information from within the protest is the web site www.ocetisakowincamp.org.