Report From Standing Rock
This is a report from Jay Jenkins, a member of Sky Island UU, after participating with the Veterans Stand with Standing Rock for several days in North Dakota protesting the DAPL.
December 3rd – Arrived at Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Reservation where we (2 other car loads from other parts of the country) were directed to go to the casino to be met by a representative for the Veterens Stand with Standing Rock. Then directed to go to the school gymnasium at Ft. Yates where I delivered the warm clothing donated by our congregation for the Water Protectors.
December 4th – Drove to the Oceti Sakowen camp at the bridge and checked in at the veterans “headquarters” tent and provided the volunteers there with my contact and medication information. After checking in and receiving my quarters assignment, walked to the bridge head to help disperse a few people who had decided to go beyond the boundary line, established by the elders, towards the law enforcement people on the other side. The people retreated after being remided that this is a totally peaceful protest and we returned to camp. This day the weather had turned bitter cold, with termperatures near zero and 50 mph wind.
December 5th – All veterans gathered at the headquarters to receive instructions as to what we, as defenders of the Water Protectors, would be doing and how we were to govern ourselves. We all wore protective vests and carried gas masks and water resistant clothing to guard agains any possible assault by law enforcement or their “security” agents hired by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). We then walked up the “road of flags” to the boundary line on the bridge, putting ourselves between the tribal leaders, Water Protectors and other tribal members and stood with our backs to the other side of the bridge. It was done this way so that the forces on the other side would know that while we were in no way acting in a hostile manner, we would not allow them to cross the bridge themselves or with their massive amount of military equipment. During the several hours at the bridge the wind had picked up to near gale force and it had started snowing pretty hard.
Once it became evident that the forces on the othr side would not attmpt to cross the bridge where we’d been for three hours, the elders and veterans returned to camp. The Sioux cooks had prepared a tremendous amount of food for us. The word was sent to all that the Army Corps of Engineers had denied ETP the permit necessary to place the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) under the lake and Missouri River. Despite this denial of the permit, ETP made it clear they would continue to drill under both the lake and the river in order to place the DAPL. Of course this will mean that come the spring of 2017, more protests will take place.
The night of the 5th, several of our tents, including first aid and headquarters tents, were blown down by the wind and we all pitched in to move people and equipment to other tents in the camp. Made for a long night.
December 6th – Left camp for the casino around 10:00 AM after being informed that the tribal Elders were asking their people and us to start leaving as the Murton County Emergency Services would no longer provide any ambulance or fire protection for the camps and the weather had turned dangerously cold. On arrival at the casino I tried to get a phone call out, but all cell phone and internet services had been cut off earlier (no one knows for sure who perpetrated that). I was then contacted by a woman working for the national Veteran’s Crisis Line who advised me not to sleep in my car as planned (there were not vacacies in the casino hotel) and she gave me a sleeping bag to use in the convention center. After a free meal (all meals were provided to the veterans at no charge by the casino staff) I participated in a closing ceremony by the Sioux elders who presented each of us an eagle feather, a symbol of a warrior’s battle.
December 7th – Left Standing Rock with a passenger who’d hitchhiked to Standing Rock from Arizona. I’d been asked if I could bring him back with me by one of the elders of the Sioux tribe.
CONCLUSIONS: The battle to protect the precious water and sacred lands of the indigenous peoples of America will continue for some time and should be part of our ongoing Social Action activities in whatever fashion we are able.