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Winter Moves On Standing Rock

Winter Moves On Standing Rock

Heavy snow began to fall and wind speeds rose to 45 mph as countless volunteers scrambled to sort the influx of donations pouring in from across the country.

Protesters Stand Firm

Prayers Amid The Snow At Camp

BEAR SOLDIER DISTRICT, STANDING ROCK RESERVATION, MCLAUGHIN, SD — In the face of state and federal orders to evacuate their makeshift campsite at Standing Rock, North Dakota, “water-protecting” Dakota Access pipeline protesters warily welcomed news of a denied permit, and prepared to endure what locals are calling the worst weather conditions of the season thus far.

As the Dec. 5 official evacuation deadline came and went, Standing Rock stood firm.

Earlier in the week, discussions ensued between local authorities and spokespersons from the group of veterans supporting the protest.

Heavy snow began to fall and wind speeds rose to 45 mph as countless volunteers scrambled to sort the influx of donations pouring in from across the country.


protestors-heading-into-the-wind-along-flag-rowLate Sunday afternoon, people could be seen leaving camp with fists raised in celebration, while, at points throughout the evening, the line of vehicles entering the campsite spanned a half-mile.

Marlo, a Santa Clara Pueblo native, said he has made five trips to and from the campsite since August, his latest stay lasting about a month.

I think about going home all the time, but if I go home, what kind of man would I be, walking away from such a big problem? How could I go home to kids knowing that I didn’t ensure their future, and call myself a warrior?” Marlo, who didn’t want his last name used, asked as temperatures dropped. “It’s just a different kind of fight.”

Marlo said prayer and people are the sustaining factors at a campsite that now hosts the largest intertribal organization of Native Americans in recent history, and an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 veterans.

Protestors head into Flag Row at Standing Rock. Photo by Johnny Vizcaino


It’s just that daily cycle, you go around you see if anybody else needs help,” Marlo said, describing the day in the life of a water protector. “We have to sustain ourselves by any means necessary. Depending on what was made, how many people are here, you definitely don’t get to feast all the time.”

The idea that Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL, will no longer try to construct the pipeline, and that the work of protesters is complete is laughable, Marlo said, stating his distrust for both federal and state authorities as he recalled being barely missed by water cannons in freezing temperatures last month.

How sad,” he said of the low regard for human life demonstrated by proponents of the pipeline, “you know what impact this is going to have.”

His experience of state law enforcement, who have allegedly sabotaged protesters equipment and vehicles at Standing Rock has left no room for trust in his view, Mario said, “You fucking liars, you guys are liars.”

Members of the news media were advised by camp coordinators to hide credentials during “direct actions” protests in the presence of state law enforcement to avoid being targeted by police.

Jen, an Albuquerque native of Shoshone Paiute, said that with the help of people back home and contributions local businesses and organizations, New Mexican campers at Standing Rock are prepared to last the winter in protest of the pipeline.

campers-protesters-gather-around-a-fire-outside-tipis-1We were able to build multiple structures, we had a yurt come up from Albuquerque, it was built in the South Valley by a woman who brought it up and now stands with us here,” she said.

Jen said after that returning to Albuquerque, she realized the significance of being at Standing Rock, sold all of her possessions, and returned to the campsite, where she has been since September.

As guests on the Standing Rock Reservation inhabited mainly by Dakota and Lakota people, travelers to camp do their best to assist the hosts, she said, even by being prayerful.

These are the cultural things that people don’t see power or action in,” Jen said, “but, being out here, we’ve seen it. If I need something, I step outside and I pray for it, twenty minutes later it will come walking into camp. It’s happened so many times I can’t even question it anymore.”

Protesters gather around night fires. Photo by Johnny Vizcaino

By Monday afternoon, camp coordinators strongly urged those traveling in vehicles unsuitable for hazardous road conditions to remain at the campsite, going as far as to deny certain vehicles permission to leave, “for their own safety.”

Roads surrounding the campsite were lined with the vehicles of unfortunate motorists.

In nearby McLaughlin, SD, dozens of travelers to and from the campsite were forced to avoid blizzard conditions in a makeshift shelter at the Bear Soldier District Youth Center.

The outpouring of support from outside the Native community this movement is different for the people of Standing Rock, said Jesse ‘Jay’ Taken Alive, “all the people coming to see, hear, and feel what’s been happening to Indian country for decades.”

Taken Alive was chairperson of Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Government in the 1990s, served as an elected official with the tribe for 24 years, and is a lifelong resident of reservation.

For all the troubles brought on by corporatized society, he said the Native response is simply to keep the interest of the planet, our home, at heart.

The creator put us on this earth to be peaceful,” the Lakota elder said, “we just need to get back into that way of living.”

The upcoming winter months coincide with a season of commitment brought on by cosmic alignment, Taken Alive said, referencing the Lakota way. “You’re going to feel it. The dominant society calls it ‘a sixth sense,’ but for us it’s an actual occurrence that happens every day for the young men that make those pledges.”

Environmental and racial justice involve a learning process, and people should be grateful for opportunities to educate themselves, evening if it means having to brave a North Dakota winter, Taken Alive said, “because it’s not going to happen any other way, or any quicker way than what’s going on right now.”

Native Americans have survived generations of genocide, just as the movement spawned by the campsite will survive North Dakotan winter winds, Taken Alive added. “We don’t have that much, but we got our culture, we got the truth, and we got love, and that’s all we need. We’ll make it through again,” Taken Alive said.

What’s missing right now, thankfully, is the bitter, bitter cold,” Taken Alive said in anticipation of declining temperatures. “The creator always shows love, we just have to understand and respect everything (it has) created, including the weather, respect it, prepare for it.”

–Vizcaino is an ABQ Free Press Weekly intern.

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Johnny Vizcaino is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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