I’d like to make it clear that this is a personal account of my experience at the Standing Rock main camp. I’m not a reporter, nor am I associated with any press. I believe in the sharing of stories, and value truth above all else. I’ve found so much of the reporting on Standing Rock to be unfair and untrue, so I’m writing the truth of my experience as a show of my support to the movement and the brave water protectors who are fighting to protect our water, and our Mother Earth.
The Coming together of Nations
A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to visit the camp at Standing Rock. In the two days that I spent at camp I found that there are so many different layers to this movement worth sharing through writing.
What I found to be the most interesting and the most inspiring about the camp at Standing Rock was the coming together of nations, and of people from across the country, and like me, from Canada as well. I heard at camp, and have since read articles saying that this coming together of nations is unprecedented and historic, the first time in history that so many tribes have united together with one common goal, to protect the water for generations to come.
Standing Rock has not received much mainstream media attention until more recently, but the camp was established some 8 months ago. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the media coverage it had received was biased in favor of big oil and the corporate machine. This is one instance where we can be thankful for social media, which has been largely responsible for getting real stories out of the camp. Its not an easy task, I mean this is the U.S. military machine we’re talking about here. They’ve blocked airspace, and as we saw with the Facebook protest a few weeks back, they are monitoring and tracking people through social media. To get a good signal, you can find a hilltop at camp aptly named “Facebook Hill”…wonder how the execs at FB would feel about their “involvement” in this movement??
When you first enter the main camp the dirt road is lined with the flags of many nations. Anyone who visits the camp is welcome to mount a flag as a show of solidarity and support from their community.
This movement is not just a First Nations issue. Its not just about ancient burial grounds or treaty rights. And when I say that the last thing I mean is any disrespect, but what I’ve found is that mainstream society, affluent, middle class, predominantly white society, tend to relegate this major issue and movement to just that, ‘its a native issue so its not our problem’ and other more racist and dividing narratives. What is so important, and inspiring about this movement is the bravery with which First Nations, and those who have joined them, are fighting for the environment, and that is an issue which effects us all. So my hope is that people would come to see this as an environmental movement and have respect for the fact that it is in fact treaty rights which allow First Nations to fight to protect our water and Mother Earth in the first place.
At camp you will find innovative ideas, engineers and environmentalists from all over sharing ideas and designs, and most importantly knowledge as many believe this movement to be a platform for change on a larger scale. They talk about renewable energy, sustainable energy, and the hope that this is our chance to leave an oil based economy in the past.
Day to day life at camp was a quiet bustle of building as the water protectors were preparing for winter. Construction is a major part of this process and you could hear power tools through out the camp everyday as people were racing against time, not knowing when exactly to expect the first snowfall. But when we visited, the harsh winds of the open plains were already freezing. This was the weekend that the water protectors were fired upon with water cannons, rubber bullets, and percussion grenades.
I was blown away at the innovative ideas people had for “winterizing” their camps, using wood burning furnaces for example, the designs that had been thought up, and even the small homes that have been donated, or constructed on site. Everyday as construction carried on throughout the main camp, people would visit each other offering help and sharing ideas, tools and supplies.
With all of the misinformation, and false and biased reporting on the part of the mainstream media, I found that what is most important is the sharing of stories within the camp, and of getting those stories out. Water protectors are continuously being referred to as protesters, and while that is arguably a fair term, its also a term that carries a negative connotation within mainstream society and media. It’s like people have forgotten that the cornerstone of democracy is the right to protest and to hold governments accountable to us, the people. Without this we live in tyranny and dictatorship. So it frustrates me to no end how Standing Rock is being reported in the mainstream media.
The camp is calm and quiet, and life is slow while at the same time busy. There is a true sense of community, with everyone contributing and no shortage of work, from sorting through clothing donations, to doing dishes in the mess halls, to construction. There is a constant sharing of knowledge and ideas, and personal stories. There is the opportunity to learn about the deep rooted traditions and culture of the brave people of the many First Nations who have spearheaded this movement from the beginning in the name of the most sacred Mother Earth. If only we could all have the same love and respect for this Earth which gives and sustains life.