Fishbowler

I make art in strange places and blog about it.

Appleseed Window Cleaning, it’s true, I’m goin’ full time..

Goodbye Reno. Back to Fort Wayne to be with family and yup, cleanin’ windows while I continue to do my paintings and writing. I’ve got a car now, a phone, a debit card even. I dropped out of society for awhile (sort of) but once again I’m embarking on a new chapter, even movin’ in to the nice part of town, downtown, West Central. Yup.Here’s my new site. Yes, my company is named after Johnny Appleseed.

Source: Appleseed Window Cleaning LLC

Political or Physical?

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“Don’t die for the wire, live for it.” Regarding Dakota Access PipeLine’s concertina wire, this was advice I heard passed along between some young natives around Oceti Oyate fire another snowy night between singing, drumming and prayer. It’s obviously a question weighing heavy. What symbolic act can heal these youthful hearts?

Honestly I go to the frontline so infrequently that I’m not the best one for a report from there and I can tell you it’s been because I’ve simply been disgusted by the actions there which lead to arrests. Becoming injured by the cops and security doesn’t appeal to me and I’m pretty sure these welts and bodily damage don’t lead to eliciting any kind of symbolic victory for our side.

The native folks will tell you this has been 500 years in the making. The oppression of a people is palpable in this area and I’ve seen the effects of it myself. Akichita is the Lakota term for warrior or soldier and there is a pride surrounding it that takes into account the familial/tribal aspect that non-natives will never be able to fully understand. The solidarity isn’t just for show.

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The frontline is a friction point in more ways than one but not just between cops and water protectors, there’s also contention between our people over what the point of it all really is here. What is our battle?

We’re walking this tightrope here in terms of the public relations invoked—how does the public view water protectors? Physical battles against the property of DAPL’s security forces become detrimental to our cause. We can’t lose access to the hearts of the world right now. It’s the reason our cleanup of camp is so important. We’re dealing with the leftovers of thousands of people who are long gone and all eyes are on us. Bob Dylan says to live outside the law one must be perfectly honest. It’s still a pigsty at Oceti Sakowin camp and all those tent poles, propane canisters and plastic bottles will be floating down the river if thaw comes too rapidly in the spring. That’s what’s called an environmental/PR disaster.

The casino recently hosted a two day conference presented by the United Nations on “Indian Treaties”. Their indigenous representatives were here to talk about indigenous rights around the world and to take testimonies from our water protectors, mostly with injuries sustained at the frontline at the hands of nasty spirited and overzealous cops and security officers.

I was happy to accompany my new friend Shara to the meeting as she’s a descendent of Iron Nation who signed the famous Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. Her family standings make her a signatory for the Lower Brule band of the Lakota people which is the tribe generally called Sioux. The evening before the conference she and I encountered a passionate and confrontational young warrior type who hastily divided himself from us by dismissing us as political after use of the word “treaty”. He’s young but he’s not dumb. He’s a guy that I’ve talked to before and I hesitate to say his name here because 2 days later he was involved with some trouble between our people at camp and the DAPL security forces, allegedly getting shot at. I believe he’s been banned from camp as an agitator.

Shara says without treaties there would be no Lower Brule people or Sioux nation. At least it’s an effort at peaceful coexistence. Water protectors have started to step up efforts to police our own as trouble makers like him are the reason the Backwater Bridge keeps highway 1806 barricaded and closed to traffic. It’s the reason the Tribal Council has asked us to leave. With Trump’s latest announcements to overturn (?) the environmental impact studies required of DAPL we may see some abrupt about faces from the council. This complex fight, is it political or physical?

frontline image credit: Craig Roth

Pray For It..

What is this prayerful resistance? What was once twenty people in a few summer teepees grew to 12,000 by early winter and has since receded to around 600 or so. There is an ebb and flow in everything. If we listen to it all at the core we’ll hear that calm river that sometimes likes to flood in the spring. Nature leads if we can listen. Prayer leads if we can hear it.

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Just now, with a handful of other hungry water protectors in Main Mess Hall, lunch started in prayer. My friend Clarence from Oklahoma is native and he gave us a Christian style prayer starting “Our heavenly father..” ending in “aho”. More typical around here is to hear prayer begin with Lakota or Dakota words. Here we’re the melting pot of melting pots. The mudras my hands formed into personalized my own prayer with a taste of Buddhism. Each to one’s own taste.

I’ve become more prayerful here than ever but I still have a long way to go to find the level of universal symbiotic spirituality that I know is there. We still have a lot to do away with, burdens that might hang on our hearts–luggage.

The message most prevalent at this moment is one of moving ahead face first into opposition. Let them oppose me because I find my strength from within. If anyone else is in agreement that’s just an extra bonus. I’ve heard it said that I must stand up for truth even if I stand alone so my prayer is the prayer to find the wisdom to accept the truth when it finds me. I’m finding that it’s the nature of agreement that weighs importantly on me right now. Can I be in agreement with someone who opposes me?

What might appear grammatically impossible might prove true. It takes all kinds as they say and this is a point I’d like to dissect. How can we move in unison with the opposing ways that we belong to? Can Christians and Buddhists and Lakota move in unison prayerfully? I’ve found, personally, that the most deeply spiritual will say yes, absolutely.

I think the truth is an energy that moves and morphs and it is no one thing. We can’t codify the truth but only experience it for the self. It’s only a simple notice to say that one searching for the truth must face the world with honesty. Domination is simply not honest. I must recognize that convincing can take the form of domination and as native peoples know domination is what it means to colonize.

As the helicopter circles above camp I hope their readings of our heat signatures show them our prayer circle in this mess hall. This lunch that warms us warms our prayers which warms our community which warms this dome of our protection which will warm this snow and ice and create an early thaw that will melt gradually the river’s flow safely past us.

This is my prayer.

Paha Sapa Wood Warriors

An intimate meeting in a cabin near Mount Rushmore, South Dakota hosts about 10 unlikely people grouped around a large wooden conference table before bedtime. After sage burning and prayers we talk firewood. The center of attention and our spiritual guide for the night, a character much bigger than his stature is Jumping Buffalo. He has one chronically injured eye, lives in Rapid City, and maintains that Sitting Bull is his grandfather, which I gather is meant in the spiritual sense more than in the blood sense but I’m not sure. I like him. He’s smart, takes charge, and he’s connected–in the firewood sense.16145597_1424656607547159_1148801483_o

Paul Freeman has been on a mission to connect our camp with a steady flow of firewood and the bridge between donors and lumberjacks has now been established. Not that it’s the first time but it’s the latest connection. Freeman, a tall ginger, has a soft honest demeanor with a very faint Nashville accent. He doesn’t joke much and he gets the job done. Kyle Schierbeck is another Standing Rock Lakota Sioux who lives now in Seattle. Schierbeck is an entrepreneur who has taken it upon himself to print Standing Rock Reservation T shirts in an effort to raise money for the camp’s firewood.

Schierbeck brought a couple business associates and Jumping Buffalo brought his chainsaw crew in addition to locals they recruited. Schierbeck informs me that the operation is called Paha Sapa Wood Warriors. Paha Sapa means Black Hills. A neighborhood friend of theirs, Bob, will be supplying the truck and heavy equipment–without profit! and I can report personally, crossing South Dakota is not the most diverse haul of highway, and quite noticeably barren of trees. Jumping Buffalo and Schierbeck–who’s Lakota name is Shunktokta: Coyote–agree that this is the region from which Standing Rock has traditionally gotten its firewood. Please allow me to reiterate: it’s a long drive.16144994_1424656594213827_1342168809_o

Connecting all the dots takes an army of dedicated souls whose mission it is to do their best in terms of the fight against the corporate centralization. A lot of people are willing and able to forego profit and salary for the cause of the water protector and when buying a T-shirt can bring warmth to our heroes the collective effort spreads further and farther. There are four elements that care for us, the Paha Sapa Wood Warriors start with fire.10590671_862586083754217_779198226393161777_n

Message Kyle Schierbeck on Facebook to order shirts, price $25 with $17 going toward camp’s firewood.

Walking Wolves

There’s no better way to tell the oil industry we don’t need them than by walking. The excitement in camp was broadcast on the bullhorn “North Gate to greet the Canadian walkers.” Yesterday was sunny and I took a jog up Flag Road to find out the details. The youth walkers were cresting the hill from the South into camp coming down Highway 1806 and I thought walking to greet them would make sense. Toe warmers and boot chains would be needed for this story.

15781228_1628945804076703_910714071224723380_nYouth Unity Journey for Sacred Waters came to us from Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan, Canada and the day I compared temperatures it was a full 20 degrees colder there than here. 825 miles to our North, these Woodland/Rocky Cree kids started out on foot 46 days ago in fur & snow boots, orange vests and face masks and carrying flags. 6 kids would walk the full route, the youngest of them, 13 years old.

“The journey really had a life of its own, no one could control it,” explained Rob Ballantyne, whose Indian name is Grey Wolfman. He refers to himself as the group’s wolf pack leader. I had hopped in his car a quarter mile up the road for a quick conversation as the walkers came into camp in front of him accompanied by a hundred or so of our people, one on horseback. Grey is the uncle of Charlene Charles, one of the walkers who insisted her uncle come to lead this trip. Grey was living in British Columbia so travel across his country was necessary to make this journey with the kids. Together through the car window we admired the buffalo in the snow who had come down the hill to greet the  walking Canadians.

Another adult leader of the walk was Marge McKenzie, who had walked from a town in Ottawa to Stanley Mission after she found that out of Canada’s 1.4 million lakes, only 96 of them were environmentally protected. “A month before we left Stanley Mission a pipeline in Prince Albert leaked.” McKenzie spoke in the dome with the circle of walkers after their arrival. She spoke of the need for traditional values as all the females wore skirts for the journey, “We must respect our grandfathers.” Grey Wolfman agreed “Our people are sleeping, we gotta’ wake them to traditional values. Our people know civil disobedience–we have the eagle feather!”

Wolfman found that implementing talking circles with the group helped to keep their inspiration up, to keep going and to voice their concerns as they arose. At least one from the Americans, a group of walkers from our camp who came joined up at Four Bears, N.D., mentioned the beauty of this system of cleansing the mind as doubts arose in the group.
One member of the group sustained a frost bitten ear and finances were slim for items such as replacement gloves and boots. The obstacles were physical, emotional, and economic. Approaching the American border the group was down to its last $40.
Ricky Sanderson Jr. devised the walking plan from a vision he had after there were a couple suicides in his community—one 13 and the other a 14 year old. “I was suffering from sleep paralysis. We must start to think about our children, prepare for them, protect this water for them now. Our own Prime Minister turned his back on us. Thank you all for welcoming us.”

Ricky senior, his father added, “You can’t survive without water. You can’t survive without fish.” He also foreshadowed for me in a late night conversation at South West Hogan last night a fight to come, “We were looking at these pipelines and noticed where the oil sands are. It’s where the Churchill River begins where our water comes down from the glaciers.”

Legaleze

While the rest of camp is questioning when their departure date will be and discussing how clean we can leave this land once the spring flooding starts, it occurred to me that the legal team will still be defending our people in North Dakota courts long after most of us have moved on from Standing Rock. It could take years for them. This seems to be at least part of the state system’s plan to break us, the waiting game is common and a lot of our people are feeling the brunt of this powerlessness. “[Our water protectors] are right to be livid,” explained Sarah Hogarth, communications director for the legal team.

Over 570 water protectors have been arrested since our conflict with DAPL & state started last summer and this is why our water protector legal collective has grown to 80 volunteers working in civil and criminal with a paid staff of seven. Formerly called Red Owl, they operate on a collective model. I wanted to connect the hotline number sharpied up my arm with some faces. I got to speak with a handful of them.

At camp, under the cloak of night the dome had filled with smoke, electricity was out, and the post meeting drumming had begun. Headlamps were in order and I had to find the legal team by this method. The people started to file out and legal team member conducting a lot of meetings at camp, Angela Bibens, remained to answer questions. Introductions came and we hopped in a little 4 wheel drive to transfer ourselves to Rosebud camp where the team’s brand new tan arctic tent resides along the frozen shoreline of Cannonball River so we could gather some thoughts and pick up some legal forms for use in court the next day in defense of water protectors in the battle engaged with a federal grand jury regarding the case of Sophia who lost her arm in an explosion in a tangle with “the law” on Backwater Bridge, November 20th.

The civil rights violations and abuses on the ground are so prevalent it would make a mob boss cringe and in the court room they can’t disallow fair & neutral defenses like the governmental bodies seem to be working to do. It’s complexity of the highest order working in these conditions bridging the worlds of 20 below zero sleeping bags and federal court subpoenas.

“I know these folks are getting inadequate council. They don’t even get phone calls and can’t say beforehand what their public defender looks like.The sheriff tainted his own case with their Facebook page. He’s so confident about never getting caught, it’s suspect.” said Redford-Hall.

All members of the legal team I’ve spoken with have reiterated the view that this legal contest outdoes any protest that has come before it stressing the challenges in dealing with mass arrests and the environmental battle, not to mention apparent collusion between DAPL and law enforcement. Legal’s tent in Rosebud with wood stove is only one outpost for the team in their efforts to survive here. They keep a comfy room at the casino for appointments and also have a town office close to courtroom action where the townsfolk are none too nice to us. Anyone defending water protectors generally won’t find support. According to one story a local was heard addressing one of our people: “Stuck in the snow? If you’re with them water protectors you can stay stuck.” North Dakota is harsh and the weather is only part of that harshness.

Anne Redford-Hall, a senior member of the collective who had a conversation with me in legal’s room at the casino offered, “They’re playing hardball at all levels.” How many levels? 1st: county (Morton) 2nd: state (North Dakota) and 3rd: federal (U.S.) and believe it or not our legal team is even fighting at a fourth (4th) legal venue which is the Federal Grand Jury from where the subpoena was issued. And criminal court is one thing while civil is another fight. Examples of civil court are the people bitten by guard dogs and then there’s the legal battle over the closure of Highway 1806. The declarations signed by many of us regarding police brutality are for the civil case. Basically all harm done to our people falls into the category of civil. I’m told even federal court cases are easier to fight than the civil considering who it is being charged: government instead of citizens.

‘Pro hac vice’ means “on this occasion” and that’s the name of the motion our people are pushing for with the North Dakota Supreme Court. The deadline for the letters in support of this motion was December 30th and our team collected over 120 signed letters in support including one from Amnesty International found here: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/Choice_of_lawyer_comments_to_NDSC.pdf. We await the state’s decision.

It’s been proven we can gather the criminal defense but in this state these attorneys can’t practice without this pro hac vice granted. “Other states have less restrictive procedures for out of state lawyers to practice. With so many defendants we’ve simply hit our max,” explained Angela Bibens.

Our defense lawyers certainly have a lot on their plate. Just the pro hac vice process involves first informally requesting the temporary change from the state supreme court, then litigation against the state, and then the public comment period is open for organizations & lawyers to weigh in which gained us backing from 200 law professors and step 4: we wait for the state’s decision.

Legal even supports our defendants needing plane tickets to get back home. See: www.waterprotectorlegal.org. Like with so many things in life there’s a lot to take into account. I’m glad I got to take this ride.

Pro-Test Not Con-Test

The most advanced form of protest is to grow beyond a need, not to reject it but to forget about it. The future is built. We can lead the future instead of follow it.

This camp shows us over and over that the missing link is human involvement. Good things are not easy, they take maintenance and discipline. We’ve gotten very used to having everything done for us. We don’t look dinner in the eye before it dies anymore, machines do that now before wrapping dinner in plastic for the miles it will travel to us. The appreciation we have can only extend so far, gratitude comes from familiarity. It’s best to know intimately what I’m devouring and respect comes from such an understanding, which in turn leads to less devouring. Today patience is too often not seen as a virtue. Our throw-away culture eschews patience. We don’t even take the time to actually know the things we detest. We don’t spend the time to understand much.

Here at this camp, Oceti Sakowin we sit on contested land. Government says it belongs to the Army Corps of Engineers since the 1950’s when they appropriated it and the Sioux nation says it’s been theirs since the Laramie Treaty of 1851. Hmm.. Here we sit and here we protest because the fact is this pipeline is death and death should not be by this river or any river which are our lifeline, everyone’s lifeline. It’s like an engine block made of plastic–it won’t last. It’s like a go car that has gears made for a semi truck,  it’s like a toothbrush for babies or clothing for the wrong climate. Petroleum and water should never mingle and pipelines burst almost daily. We protest this wrong system and call ourselves water protectors.

Yes, mankind is on a continual pattern of continual outgrowth, a plant, a vine, an invasive species perhaps, but some want to call us a virus–I take words seriously, I’m no virus. We train ourselves with our words and with our mindset we apply to daily life what can be a manipulation toward good living if we work consciously. Downsizing is a move toward personal harmony with one’s environment because the ‘take’ is lessened. It’s not even an attempt to address the ‘give’ here because if the ‘take’ is lessened, that IS giving.

Our deficit is the question. One’s personal balance in the world is the question here. We can live a life quite out of balance if not careful. My footprint is my check sheet. Carbon is the currency of exchange and so whatever ability one has to lessen his carbon footprint we can do it. Such is the way of the environmental warrior. The war is with the self. the war is one against personal waste.

It’s easy to see what a wasteful society we’re a part of but it’s hard to implement personal sacrifice to the aid of that society if we fail to respect that society. At all levels of society we can operate in ways that unify our methods into one strong push toward health. In other words it takes all kinds to drive a ship but first the unity of that ship gets made real by a manifest. A mission is revealed and those on board live by these words and thoughts become made real.

In terms of the environment we know what needs done, there are plenty of ideas spread freely already and ‘carbon footprint’ says it all but the real challenge–the singular mission–is in finding the personal strength to downsize all aspects of consumption. Community takes care of alot without wasteful redundancy. From the personal point of view, the dependent individual grows into the independent individual but it’s in thinking about how interdependence works that our mission will be made real. How many cars do 12 cohabiting people really need? Cel phones?

The most advanced form of protest is to grow beyond a need. Imagine.

 

Protester photo by Tom Jefferson

I’m Akíčhita, A Warrior

 

Perhaps hers is the very story that inspired you to pay attention to the situation in Standing Rock. On November 20th, 2016, Vanessa Dundon, 31, , of the Navajo tribe, a.k.a. Dine, lost the use of her right eye. When a flaming hot canister of tear gas was shot she expected the blast to arc well into the sky 50 to 100 feet up as would be appropriate but instead the security soldier shot direct at her face, a result that breaks and fractures bones usually. Her eye sustained trauma. In Bismarck, Sanford Medical Center’s delayed actions are the subject of a pending lawsuit. “I was under insured. My healthcare failed me. I had to accept my fate” Says Dundon as she relayed further stories of horrible treatment there, most likely based on a prejudice against water protectors.

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photo by Adam Johansson

Vanessa told me that Facebook images of the young girl who was mauled by police dogs here at Standing Rock inspired her to hitchhike part of the way to get here. These martyrs bring attention to our situation and serious actions ensue as the world looks on.
It could be noted that comfort is our enemy. Comfort addiction is what has gotten us into this place we’re in right now suckin’ on the oil teat without thinking and it’s that mindless adherence to the petro-status quo that is our suicide ticket ride.

The gravity of this event is substantial, grave in fact, with a serious and a soft side as it’s coupled with the group hug mentality of hippies and wellness counselors. When I first got to camp, our practice was direct action training which put the words ‘snatch & grab’ first onto my tongue and the tactics of hand to hand interaction with aggressive paramilitary cops and security forces came to the forefront of my mind. Then came sitting in Allies meetings for the non-indigenous among us and Decolonization groups. It was then that I realized what kind of balance would have to be struck at Standing Rock. This moment is a clash of cultures from various angles. Members from 300 Native American tribes have come together here with their allies. We’re all here to fight the petro-corporatocracy and the alliance between cultures is tantamount. There is some cultural trauma to heal and so far this co-habitation is advancing our respective alliances.

We lined up and faced each other like a football exercise but instead we played the part of frontline protectors against cops and the game was to keep our people from being snatched off to jail­­­—or worse. Instructions for gas masks were offered as well as information concerning our eye protection. Ears, arms, and legs were shown to be fragile items never to be left unguarded. These parts might get us into trouble if we were to get sloppy. The number for our legal assistance, 605-519-8180, became a permanent series inked up my forearm just in case I end up in jail somehow which seems to be an easy thing to accomplish. Over 500 of us have gone jail so far. The jailers are giving our people no respect and their civil rights violations such as inappropriate strip searches and dog cage confinement are being investigated. We’re not even being able to look up a phone number once jailed, hence the inked arm.

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photo by Destiny Rivas

Vanessa expressed the importance of personal online coverage—­­the citizen media. Directly after the fateful moment of destruction she saw that an idea as repulsive as a photograph taken at a moment like this was critical to our mission and purpose here. We get the word out showing what’s really happening here at Standing Rock with the DAPL pipeline. The term citizen journalism holds much weight here.

I heard “Makya po, Makya po!”, “help me! help me!” over the walkie talkie and I came running to the frontline. You see, I’m akíčhita, a warrior. Vanessa likes to go by Sioux Z Dezbah—lady going to war—and she says when she gets back to Arizona it’ll be Nanabah—lady home from war.

I asked Sioux Z “What’s to come from all this?” She’d like to see better healthcare for indigenous peoples and she wants to see the jobs retained. This pipeline is taking jobs from railroad workers and truck drivers. “Don’t take away the jobs. It’s not just the water, it’s the jobs, our economic world is at stake.”

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If You Don’t Like My Fire

“It’s not over yet” is the message spread by the youth of this camp and they’re not alone, the beat goes on. The sacred fire is our center of camp out here. I sat at the new fire, the “people’s fire” which replaced our sacred fire of the seven councils which had been extinguished by 2 tribal elders. Some might say that art is symbolic ideas played out to obsessive ends and I see the attendance to the fire as an art of its own, it’s a symbol. I sat at the new fire, the People’s Fire, which goes by other names.

Sometimes snow falls so gently there’s no sound and barely a feel on the feet. Eskimo language has many words for snow, not just one. It only makes sense when you consider how many variations there are in terms of its dryness and differing qualities of the precipitation material. And no, North Dakota is not Eskimo territory -even though it might seem like it.

I feel that I have the best sleeping bag ever. It’s a bag rated for 20 degrees below zero. The way I acquired it was a sort of accident or mistake. A man showed up at the dome to deliver it and other warm items such as a wool blanket with it. He asked for a girl named Adare and I realized her absence would lead to my personal boon. She had already left camp but this guy seemed to be determined to please her. Sorry guy, been there. He dropped it off anyway. The dome was like a bus station then. At this point it’s more like a meeting hall slash refugee camp with wood burning stoves and rumors of wifi. I’m so sick of the cel phones though. Here we are in the snow storm-survival mode-and all these people can think about is their damn phone.

11 composting toilets might not sound like a cause for celebration to you but for us it is. We’re down to 687 people. That number is down from 11,000. In the latest meetings we’ve discussed with sanitation just how many we can support with this system. It’s a subject of humility. There is no glory. As the light gets lighter, I consider the leadership we have at this camp. I find my own strength. I’m a hollowed stump ready for the filling. On the one hand this is a war, a battle at the front line. on the other hand this is the birth of a city. Destruction and creation work hand in hand.

The youth of this camp are reining in a spiritual revolution. The indigenous lead here in many ways and their leadership is invited by the non-natives. They also seem to complain alot. What I’m learning is that this “complaining” or pleading is more of a stylistic difference, a native way of speaking, call it a cadence. Racist thinking seems to be an accepted way with them at least in speech and this is understandable in a situation of ongoing oppression and occupation. I might end up that way too if I were Indian.

In the absence of television and mindless mass media, sports logos still proliferate here on camp. As long as the clothing adorned is quality warmth apparel, what harm could there be? No, here the more common subjects of discussion are wool, cotton and nylon.

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and television acts as an antithesis to mindfulness. Its purpose is to distract. Daily life and its obligations of responsibilities can present the need for distraction for the use of relaxation from that mental taxation.

Mercenaries have been fighting the fight for the robber barons of oil’s industry. Their lack of military logos are the single indicator that alerts us to the nature of this fight. A private war.

I can’t tell you which military it was that has been shooting our people with rubber bullets and electro shock zaps, tazing, and blasting freezing water cannons. I’m not sure if those were the private soldiers or the tax funded ones. Either way those calling ourselves water protectors have been targeted by non-lethal force at the behest of a toxic industry that we’ve all supported deeply for 100 years. The irony has not been lost on our water protectors drinking from plastic bottles which release a toxic chemical reaction once frozen and thawed.

Those protecting oil receive a salary. Those protecting water volunteer, risk injury and go to jail for the cause. Envisioning a future for this camp and my own place in it brings me comfort each evening in my giant plastic and steel dome. Active creation invokes ideas which invoke more creation. Our fight is against a faceless and consequently heartless–facet of modern society, the corporate model.

Water is Life, Mni Wiconi

Tears turn to ice in the pre dawn in the snowy season in North Dakota. NoDAPL is a peaceful protest at Standing Rock. Our numbers are in the thousands, 11,000 at one point, I’m told but many coming and going for months now. Now when I say peaceful I mean prayer based on the Lakota way and this morning our prayers started before dark. 700 people came to the Sacred Fire for a cup of coffee and prayer, lovely prayer.

Water is sacred, as the main motto here says “Water is Life” or in the Lakota “Mni Wiconi which sounded great from my slightly screechy winter voice. This morning’s ceremony was for the purpose of blessing the water with positive intention, loving harmony and marching across camp to the river to pour water from copper mugs into it. Sorry I can’t explain the reason for the copper. Google it? Lemme know? The ceremony took over 2 hours and we joined in singing, also repeating “water is life” in about 10 languages, led by a wide variety of people with love in their eyes. The men and the women had differing jobs and the elders were treated with reverence. Dogs run free and traditional wisdom centered around family and nature reflected a culture that we all might relate to, usually involving grandma and/or church/temple/mass/service.

the frozen path down the river bank was slippery dangerous and the men lined its sides with hands out for the stabilizing of the procession of women in their descent to the river’s edge. After the ladies, of course, came the men and we all tossed a pinch of tobacco into the waters. The tobacco was charged with our loving intentions and a person silent prayer. This was the offering. The singing was my favorite offering and my favorite song consisted of only 2 or 3 syllables arranged and re-arranged, “hay” and “ya”. By the end as Father Sun came to warm Mother Earth, a miraculous synchronicity converged with our final prayer as the cloud departed. With the iced over silver snake at our feet, the glorious whiteness drifted over every detail of ground cover to single out the reason we all came here as water protectors. Standing Rock is a bucolic pocket, a charming valley of water way and I feel home, especially jumping through snow banks like a husky or a loner child.

Most shocking might be the expanse that are the Dakotas. This pin point location is the nastiest battle site I’ve seen. It’s the most drastic contrast I could imagine. Many people have been injured here but the nastiest is what corporate oil, as a shameful industry has brought here, as it has done worldwide. Such a pure and pristine setting jarringly hosts this ongoing conflict. Two bombed out vehicles still sit at the bridge, highway 1806 where our front line stands. A flock of geese built up steam and angled around to buzz us today in the afternoon during a stand off at the bridge but the Hum V military trucks and soldiers loading assault weapons disgusted them before the birds could reach us. It’s a hard to believe but the cars were lit on fire by the oppressors, not the protesting water protectors. A video can prove this. There were no Molotov cocktails thrown. The corporation building this pipeline is Energy Transfer Partners out of Texas and we’re happy to report their investors have decided to shit on them even if the geese wouldn’t.

(photo by Ernesto Spotted Wolf)

I’m getting ahead of myself. I wanted to tell you about the first full day I experienced here, which was a Sunday. We are here to fight back and our hearts are in one place. We fight with love and nothing else. We aspire to fight as one.

I am camped with some veterans who’ve organized to bring attention to the situation. We’re here in solidarity with 300 indigenous peoples which is the most togetherness natives have ever seen. It’s been an in-pouring of water protectors from all points of the globe and I think I’ve seen all races represented. I’ve also seen the world’s media here represented here. Finally, as if the seal was broken, this occupation has elicited full international media attention . I’m told even CNN is here. We’ll see if that’s true. It’s like a tide that turns to reveal support that was previously hidden. I’ve attended the non-violent direct action meeting twice so far because non-violence can be difficult when thuggish bullies and scared boys in uniforms suppress. Tensions are high and the law enforcement has shown the worst disregard, overwhelmingly unscrupulous.

To be continued….

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