Setting up Zaniyan Wellness Center at Rosebud Camp, #NoDAPL

I would like to share a story about my second trip to the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota.

On my first morning at Rosebud Camp (a smaller camp established by the Lakota people of Rosebud reservation in South Dakota), I was woken up by a man’s voice through a bullhorn. “Wake up, wake up! We’re leaving again in half an hour from the bottom gate. Gotta protect the land and the water from the Black Snake. Wake up, relatives!” As soon as people began to gather at the bottom gate at least three helicopters began circling overhead. The yellow helicopters are owned by Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) parent company, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). The blue helicopter was thought to be CIA based on the tail numbers.

This was my second trip to Standing Rock to be a medic and to help organize healing space for the people who are protecting the water and land from the DAPL. My motivation for making the eleven hour drive multiple times is that I cannot stand by and do nothing while unarmed people are disenfranchised and met with such violent hostility by a wealthy oil company. When unarmed water protectors were maced and attacked by dogs by the security company hired by DAPL, it felt like the proverbial “last straw.” I believe this abuse by the oil company has triggered a “Mama Bear” response from people all over the world and we are drawn to camp to support and defend.

During my two stays at the camps (first Sacred Stone camp, then Rosebud) I have met people from California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Vermont, North Carolina, and Florida. Some people bring skills such as herbalists, traditional healers, Western-trained healers, midwives, photo-journalists, tipi and other builders, security, and many others. Many more people are here simply to stand in solidarity as people protect the land and water and to volunteer in the kitchen or other places.

Many Native American folks are commenting that this is the largest gathering of different tribes in one place in history, and different tribes have come to camp that had long standing negative feelings toward each other and are co-existing at camp without incident.

I’ve met so many people that just packed up and came to camp. A common theme seems to be that we are drawn to camp and that’s where we needed to be. Some are staying for a few days, or a week, or a month, or the winter, or for as long as camp exists. The camps are very secure; no alcohol (intoxicated people are asked to leave–I’ve personally only heard of 2 people being kicked out for that reason since April), no guns, and security is present at the entrance to each camp. One safety concern is that ambulance services have decided they will no longer come to camp. The quickest ways to squash a revolution are to cut off food and medical services. The oil company is doing their damnedest to make that happen and they control the local media, police, and sheriff.

There is a Lakota prophesy that one day a giant Black Snake would come and bring destruction to the land and water. The prophesy says the Black Snake will end their lives. Many people say that now is the time of this prophesy. One woman in her late 50’s said that as a little girl she was taught that the Black Snake would be coming and that is why her family made sure she learned traditional ways of drying and preparing food, among other traditions.

Folks are ready to stand in prayer and/or other non-violent protest against the DAPL, and I don’t think the company really knows who they are dealing with. DAPL continues to build in other places without protestors, and footage shows they are working within the 20 mile limit they are banned from by President Obama. That decree was only a “request” that DAPL “voluntarily” stop building, without any penalties should they start building again. Still, the water protectors will stand strong to defeat the Black Snake.