Today was slightly insane. So I'm at the Oceti Sakowin camp at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and I had just finished an interview with Linda Black Elk, the liaison between the herbalists and the campers, and Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, a physician on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, outside of their der (pronounced like bear...apparently the real name for a yurt), when a truck came by. The driver saw my media badge and instructed me to head towards the ridge - something was happening. We looked up towards it and there was a line of police officers and DAPL security all outfitted in full riot gear with rifles all pointed in the camp’s direction. Behind them was a visible piece of the pipeline being moved while tractors prepared its path on the other side. So I jumped in a van with Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle who took me towards the action. We stopped in a thicket of brush to watch from afar for a little while, and started noticing a group from the camp start to make their way up the ridge towards the officers.
They were face to face.
Things were tense.
As I was standing there shooting some footage, a pickup full of tribe members came by and told me to hop in the back, so without thinking (in retrospect probably not the best practice to get into), I did. I jumped in the back of the truck and headed towards the action. I jumped out when I started to feel I was getting a bit too close for comfort. I set up my camera and tried to figure out what was going on. Horses with whooping indigenous Native Americans came flying by me, drum lines came passing by, and prayer began on the riverbank below the officers on the ridge. There was obviously an agenda on both sides, but it was unclear what that was. Several rumors began to circulate. One was that some water protectors were crossing the river to test the waters and see if they can get to the construction site to block the pipeline. Another was that the DAPL side was using that as a diversion while they proceeded with construction on an unseen portion of the ridge.
I still don’t know.
But I do know things were definitely coming to some sort of head.
Meanwhile, helicopters, private planes, and drones with facial recognition were allegedly violating no-fly zones to keep a watchful eye on the 'savages.'
Now here's the fucked part - the original permits for this thing apparently had the pipeline routed to cross the Missouri River 30 miles upstream near Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, but they denied it because...get this...they were worried that it might contaminate their water!
So they decided to move it downstream.
Less than a half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and their main source of water.
And here we are.
Anyhow, the crowds dispersed and regrouped in various parts of the camp.
Soon after, while I was offloading and decompressing back at camp when I heard some hoopla near the spirit fire, a communal gathering place in the center of camp, a base for announcements, ideas, prayer and ceremony. While the action was happening, a member of the UN was at camp, and this was a bit of a debriefing of what was said and is being done.
After the briefing I got a chance to speak with Roberto Borrero of the Indian International Treaty Council, human rights observer accompanying Grand Chief Edward John of the U.N., about his role in the report that will be presented to the U.N. regarding human rights violations as well as the issue of criminalizing the water protectors, and the man that was standing right next to him, who happened to be Doug Good Feather, the Executive Director of th Lakota Way Healing Center and…get this…grandson to Sitting Bull.
I couldn’t help but realize at that moment what an honor it was and how lucky I was to be here.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to capture many pictures as I was there for a job, but fortunately, that job was to capture a lot of this on 360 video for Al Jazeera America (AJ+), and they’ll be releasing bits later this week and next.
With all that being said, do not believe any of the bullshit of the ‘violent’ protestors. Literally everywhere you turn, it’s prayer circles and ceremonies. Literally.
The only violence so far has been perpetrated by the DAPL side. I’ve already spoken with a group of medics who were beaten, arrested, marked and thrown into dog kennels while they were treating injured protectors. I also met another journalist who had taken pictures of a horse that was tasered and had to be put down, as well as an elder as the riot police tore his ceremonial peace pipe from his hands before knocking him to the ground with batons.
To add insult to injury…imagine this…your uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, parents, brothers and sisters are buried on your property. The U.S. government sells that piece of your property to someone that isn’t related to you at all, despite a long standing treaty that you have the rights to the land. An oil company comes in with tanks, an army of armed police, a fleet of bulldozers and digs them all up. Do you think you’d experience a bit of trauma? Well, that’s EXACTLY what’s happening to all the people here. That’s what’s been happening to the indigenous communities for over 500 years. Is it all coming to a head?
So if you don’t care, goddamnit start caring. Because if you don’t care about water, then you don’t care about life.
It really is as simple as that.
Click here for the full story of my experience at Standing Rock: My Stand At Standing Rock - Guns & Oil Have Driven Us Apart, Perhaps Water Is Bringing Us Back Together.