The Dakota Pipeline project to transport oil across four states has an intended path under the Missouri River, and so has been a source of increasing contention for a few months now. Native peoples and their non-native allies set up camp by the river on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation land to peacefully stop the pipeline (“black snake” in the predictions), to make a stand for the environment, for the water source for 18 million people, for the land that contains their ancestor’s remains. Growing from five people praying on April 1st, the camp swelled to thousands of people at its height in the summer, and has drawn international attention and support with over 300 tribal flags are planted there.
So many social justice issues are converging in this one situation: fossil fuel extraction for export, with the effects of pollution visited on the local community; racial injustices including changing the path from north of (white) Bismarck downstream to north of the reservation, and breaking native treaty rights; desecration of burial sites and archeological remains; hyper-militarization of police and National Guard using war equipment and surveillance for peaceful protestors; private security forces using attack dogs; corporate media black-outs; governor, D.A., and other officials aligned with fossil fuel industry instead of the people they pledged to serve; trumped up charges and other intimidation tactics like strip-searching, leaving people naked in cells overnight, jailing people on one charge that changes the next day, and other unlawful activity and human rights abuses; arresting journalists like Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow!, and others, for covering this news. And underneath it all is the spiritual foundation of stewardship, honoring and caring for our mother earth and all her inhabitants, with slogans like “Water is Life” and “You Can’t Drink Oil.” Are you also reminded of our Seventh UU principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”?
To read the UUA president Peter Morales’ statement from Aug 30 th in support of Standing Rock, and stories from other UU churches and members, here’s the UU World article: https://www.uuworld.org/articles/standing-rock
So when Eric Anderson on the Racial Justice Ministry suggested raising funds from our church community for Standing Rock, the Climate Action Ministry joined in solidarity too, and UUCB mobilized. Over three Sundays in September we collected about $825, then modified our initial plans when we heard the camp’s needs were shifting. We donated directly to a non-profit “Trees, Water, People,” which collaborates on solar projects on tribal lands, and which is currently working with Henry Red Cloud for Standing Rock’s need including some solar.
Many thanks to all who contributed to this effort – UUCB came through, and exceeded our goal!!
I am one church member who recently travelled to Standing Rock to see it for myself, and to bring some supplies from the Boulder community donations at the Unity Church. I stayed for 3 days at the smaller original camp called Sacred Stone which is on private land near the reservation, owned by LaDonna Brave Bull Allard. She recently spoke eloquently to the U.N. about the situation, in addition to the Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault. It is a remarkable fluctuating dynamic peaceful community, comprised with people from many far-flung places, with varying time commitments. In general I found people friendly, eager to engage and share stories and experiences. If visitors do not abide by the rules of no alcohol, drugs, or weapons, they are escorted from the camp. The absence of cell phones (poor signal) and electronics was a welcome change for me – time for discussions at dinner, over work tasks, sitting around a campfire, cleaning dishes, sorting donations, and re-arranging the trash pile. Another visitor left me a fleece blanket project to complete, then I found a mom with an 8 month old who wanted it. Everyone was busy and purposeful, pitching in with whoever needed help, for whatever needed to get done. This has been a remarkable self-organizing community, dealing with many practical issues of so many people wanting to be in the same place at the same time. I attended a community meeting at the big camp and was stunned to learn the porta-potty services alone are costing the tribal council $60-70,000 a month! I met so many interesting and memorable people there – a group of Minnesotans in a camper welcomed me in, and we all turned around a few hours later and greeted an RV with 6 Rhode Islanders who had collected supplies plus massive piles of food staples like flour and beans, and driven out to deliver them. I met separately two men from California, a 76 year old massage therapist and a 24 year old planning to stay all winter, both joining the non-violent gatherings at pipeline worksites where people are getting arrested. I met a Two Spirit man who was repairing clothing, advising a native woman with a crying baby to use a cradleboard. So many faces each with their own fascinating stories – so much passion and hope. So much bitter cold and wind coming.
The timing of my trip enabled me to attend the Teach-In hosted by the UU Fellowship of Bismarck on Oct 7 th , a nearby congregation that has had a frequent presence at the camp. It was an opportunity for the community to hear from native leaders what the camp is all about. Moving accounts of living in the Bakken Shale area included personal tales of the increased cancer rates and health problems, divisions within the tribe about how to spend oil money. Speakers included long-time native activist Winona LaDuke, Kandi Mossett, a young activist with the Indigenous Environmental Network, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, and others.
If anyone wishes to know more about my visit, I’d be happy to share my experiences. And I know Susan Riederer would too when she has time!
For more information about the camps, go to:
www.sacredstonecamp.org especially the FAQ section which includes current donation info