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.
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.
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.”