Standing with Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota

I’m a Wisconsin physician who recently volunteered my medical services at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota,  Like many people, I was dismayed at the news of Native Americans at Standing Rock Reservation being maced and attacked by dogs at the Access Dakota Pipeline on September 3, 2016 as they protected their sacred burial grounds from destruction.


I reached out via Facebook to find out how to volunteer my services as a physician and to offer supplies and medicines. I got in touch with Michael Knudsen, an MPH student in Disaster Management and I learned that his family had just created the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp on their land in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline’s impending path through their sacred burial grounds in Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This pipeline is not only a threat to their sacred burial grounds, but also threatens their water supply when it leaks. Sacred Stone is now the oldest camp, but not the largest of the camps. People are arriving from across the country and around the world!


I drove 10 hours from Madison, Wisconsin to Bismarck, North Dakota and met Michael for a bite to eat before embarking on the beautiful drive south along the Missouri River to Sacred Stone Camp. I was prepared to donate medical supplies, my weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share of farm fresh vegetables, and horse supplies (as a horse owner I wanted to provide for horses at camp as they get ready for winter as well). The largest camp had increased from 2,000 people to 4,000 people by the time I arrived and the needs were great. I was wearing my scrubs (embroidered with “Dr. Erica Rotondo, Family Medicine”) mainly to assist me through the roadblocks. These barricades were erected by the sheriff between Bismarck and Standing Rock to prevent Native Americans and their supporters from entering to protect their land and water.


I asked the local camp supply organizer where the medic tent was located so I could introduce myself. She said there was no camp medic. I told her who I was and offered to be the camp medic. She said, “Great, let me get you the Epi pens and a walkie talkie,” and Boom…I was suddenly the only medic in camp for three days! We walked through the different camps to equally distribute the small number of Epi pens available. I met other healers; RNs, an herbalist, acupuncturists, massage therapists, EMTs, and even a Reiki healer. I treated a variety of first aid conditions such as splinters, rope burns, shoulder pain (from erecting tipis the day before), cough and colds, and stomach flu. While I didn’t have to treat any dog bites, I left instructions on how to treat dog bites.

I fielded phone calls and requests from medical professionals outside camp and non-profit groups wondering what they could bring to camp. At that time we needed nebulizers, aerosol medications, defibrillators, Epi pens, insulin, burn treatments, infant supplies, firewood, and durable medical equipment that would make camp more accessible to the elderly and differently-abled since the weather and camp life are about to change with the coming winter.


Despite what you might hear in the news, the struggle is not over and people are going to remain at camp as long as necessary. The Access Dakota Pipeline  has been asked to “voluntarily pause” their advancement through Standing Rock, but the federal request does not list any punishment for resuming the pipeline in that area. People assert that camp will remain open through the bitterly cold winter so ADPL does not resume the pipeline if people go indoors for the winter and leave the land unguarded. The goal is to keep supporting camp through all kinds of weather. Medical and mental health professionals are needed at camp, as well as an ever-evolving list of supplies. I am a Medical Consultant for the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, and I’m so excited to help it become more organized and official. Please search for Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council on Facebook to find instructions about volunteering and donations. If you have more questions you can contact me at my clinic on the near west side of Madison where I am currently accepting new patients at (608) 205-8326.
-Dr. Erica Rotondo