Day #9 The Last Full Day in Bismarck

Sunday, November 27th, 2016 It was time to get over whatever the bug was that hit me. I had a major backup of mucus in my lungs. I had seen the small plane flying around over the camp every day I was there. It looked like it was spraying something. I had noticed people coughing a lot. Many complained of a sore throat first. I got very congested lungs. Maybe from the smoke from warming fires, maybe a combination. I stayed inside my room the whole day, washing clothes and packing.  The day got colder and drearier by the hour. It began to rain and by morning, this is what I saw out my hotel window. The white car is my rental.


I found out that Bismarck residents had made a big rally in support of their law enforcement on Saturday. I had witnessed no support in town for the water protectors. I had heard from people in camp that some residents had called the indigenous water protectors prairie niggers. I hate to write it, but I think that everyone needs to know the level of hate that has been ramped up here. This city has displayed bigotry, hate, and injustice to people trying to protect everyone’s water. The corporation (with help of Morton County Sheriff’s Department) has used racial hatred to turn the population of the city of Bismarck against any protest of this pipeline. What a clever distraction. The town did not want the pipeline to go north of them, upstream. How easily Energy Transfer Partners were able to re-route this pipeline. I do not think they ever really planned to put the pipeline north of Bismarck. I think the whole process was used to make one side feel superior than the other. Thus distracting from the real issues of safety, the environment, and clean water.

While I was sad to leave Standing Rock, I was very glad to leave Bismarck.

Day #8 The Sacred Fire

Saturday, November 26th, 2016 I arose early to participate in the morning prayer at the sacred fire. This was the coldest, most frozen morning I had experienced. It seemed that each morning since I arrived in North Dakota, the mornings had gotten colder. The morning prayer begins before the sunrise. Everyone gathers around in a circle. They say the circle is a very sacred symbol and the elders encouraged all to gather in a circle whenever gathered to talk.

An elder began talking about how some people were disrespecting the traditions and rituals. How they were being patient and wanted to teach allies who had sacrificed to be there. As the elder was speaking, a non indigenous woman began speaking out of turn, she yelled some profanity and she was escorted gently away. Everything is done quietly and calmly, even escorting someone out of the circle. There was singing and more explanations of how your heart must be calm and filled with love and forgiveness so that the power of the spirits can work. Another speaker spoke about coming challenges and invited anyone who felt they had to leave, that they should not feel bad, that they should go, knowing that their help and presence was appreciated. I felt as if he was speaking directly to me. He was saying it was OK, go in peace. The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, we all faced east. The women performed the water ceremony and as they walked to the river, I walked back to my car and began to pack up.

I gave the sleeping bag to a guy who was walking by with his girlfriend who was mad at him for something, he rolled it up hastily and ran after her. I gave the self inflatable pad to another guy from Texas who was walking by, he said it would be very comfortable. I gave the blankets to a donation tent. I gave the case of bottled water to Grandma’s Kitchen. The morning was very cold, I was sad and feeling a bit sick, and it was time to drive to Bismarck. I was worried about going back there as I had heard reports of water protectors being harassed. On the way to the exit, I saw a guy who was a very quiet guy I had seen many times in Grandma’s Kitchen. He was in the road talking with a young woman. I stopped the car and told him goodbye, I was leaving. He gave me a jar of Himalayan pink salt. I thanked him and wished them both well.

The trip back was very long and I got back to Fairfield Inn around 12:30 p.m. I slept all the rest of the day.

Day #7 A Long Walk

*Note pictures and film from other camera to be added tomorrow.

Friday, November 25th, 2016   The only place to get cell phone signals is on top of a hill that they have called Media Hill. If you need press passes to film or have questions related to what you can photograph, this is the place to get answers. Oh yes, and maybe check your email. I actually thought that having the signals jammed was a good thing. Absolutely no one was walking around with a phone in their hand staring at a screen. Everyone was talking to others, connecting. I got up early, at 6:00 a.m. to visit the  portables and saw a stunning sight. The air was totally cold, the sky clear and I could see all of the stars and a sliver of moon. Everything was covered in a light dusting of snow.It looked like it glowed. I then went back to sleep in my warm sleeping bag and did not wake up again till 8:30 a.m. Everyone was already volunteering in the kitchen so, I decided to go visit Media Hill.

At the top of the hill, I asked a young man if he knew who I needed to talk to about taking photos in the camp. This was Johnathan who became my walking buddy. He knew all about photography with the digital cameras. I realized how old school I was. I know all about film, f stops and darkrooms.  Johnathan told me about how his mother and dad were also there helping out in the camp. His father is a videographer from Salt Lake City, Utah. His mother is a teacher.and was helping out the school at the camp. I told him about my idea of photographing people as we walked down the hill, then we saw in front of a tee pee a woman with an old tin-type camera taking the picture of  a man in full indigenous clothing. We stopped and spoke with several people gathered at that spot. I began to take photos and record people. It was all very spontaneous, many cars were coming into camp, many new people arriving, the day was sunny and getting warmer. An SUV turned the corner of the road we were on and I saw Myron Dewey of Digital Smoke Signals

It was his live videos that helped me to see what was happening here in Standing Rock, so I ran up to the SUV and gave him a hug and thanked him for his work in educating the world. Johnathan was now in full conference with the camera woman, so I began to walk down the road by myself towards the bridge. I wanted to get a look at that wall of military and police. I saw them on the hills watching me and other people on the road, I saw and heard the small plane and a police helicopter that flew overhead so much one almost became used to it.

I hung around the rope that was the marker strung across the road to show where you had to stop. If you cross the rope, the police think you are intimidating them. I stood there for about an hour looking at the beautiful clear sky and the surrounding hills and imagined if they were not there. That was my prayer.

On the way back to camp, my throat was sore, my back and legs hurt, and I was feeling very tired. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped also. I saw a group from Mexico had arrived at the front main gate and were doing a prayer ritual, blessing some supplies they were giving to the water protectors. Closer to the California Kitchen and my car, I saw a group had made a banner for the young woman, Sophia, who had gotten severely injured. They were asking people to sign it, so I stopped and signed with a good note for her and her bravery.

It was almost dinner time at Grandma’s California Kitchen and I was beginning to not feel well. I had been walking around all day after only drinking some coffee in the morning. The prayer was excellent and was all about the coming changes and challenges that were to be faced with prayer. No one wants anyone hurt. All actions need to be approved by the elders. Some people are going on actions that are not peaceful or prayerful. On this night, the tent was overflowing with people. I met people from Harlem, New York, from Canada, from Uruguay, from Mexico, from Peru, from Norway, from Florida. Yes, and my friends from Thanksgiving night came by. I sat talking with people till almost 12:00 midnight. We had a laugh about how it was wise to keep some toilet paper in ones pocket because the rolls froze inside the portables. It was now extremely cold. The temperature had really dropped in just a few hours.

I was feeling that the spirits were telling me with little messages that my mission was accomplished. I had brought the banner from my school that spread the news to everyone in my circle about this serious history making event. I had witnessed and recorded what this camp and this struggle for water is about. I had prayed at the front line. I had brought some food, medical, camping, and clothing supplies. I had helped out a little. It seemed like such a small effort. I wished I had the money for a large truck of goods to help, I wished for months, not just days to help. I wished I had the energy to take a million photos. But I came to a realization, it is not about the quantity, it is the heartfelt desire and effort of one person magnified by the thousands that are here. This will make the difference.

By the time I got into my car to sleep, I knew I was going to drive back to Bismarck in the morning. During the night, everything froze even inside the car. The blanket got wet from condensation. Luckily, I had an emergency blanket and kept dry inside my sleeping bag.

Day #6 Thanksgiving Day Spirits

Thursday, November 24th, 2016  I thought at night very hard about why I was there in Oceti Sakowin Camp. The area is filled with spirits. They are in the wind as it blows over the hills. One can feel that many things have happened here. So, the question was, are you ready to die for this cause? Because if you are not serious about it, you should not be here at all. I thought about how I was a guest, an ally to help others. They have always been here fighting to live. I cried this night knowing that if I was called to do an action, I would willingly go with a prayer and make the stand full of peace as many others have done before. There are some things worth dying for and water is surely one of them. In acknowledging this, I understood fully what everyone here is going through. I knew that I was there for the right reason. I had seen people crying, I had seen some people walking alone looking very sad. But overall, peace and hopefulness in the power of prayer hovers about over the whole camp. No matter where anyone is from, no matter what style or condition of clothes, no matter the language, everyone is united and I could feel the power in that and everyone comforted and helped each other. This is the front line of a very serious battle. A battle between peace and violence, between right and wrong, between the oppressor and the oppressed, between common citizens and corporate power. Every thought, every word uttered, every action must radiate the peace and love we have for each other and to the people watching us on the hills over looking the camp. There is no profanity at camp, no hateful words. One might be asked to leave if they are overheard saying negative things about others or swearing. There are children all playing about the camp and no one wanted to upset them. I heard about people being led out of camp for breaking the rules. Anyone thinking this is a Woodstock or some sort of hippy camp-out is very mistaken. The camps are sacred places for prayer, these lands are filled with spirits and people must respect those spirits.

Morning. I got up before dawn, it was overcast, frosty, and cold, and I went to the California Kitchen to help with breakfast. I helped clean the tent floor, it was getting muddy with the wet frosty footprints. I helped organize the service tables. There were already many people working in the kitchen getting the Thanksgiving food prepared. The California Kitchen is actually three tents, one central large cabin tent and two smaller circular tents at each end connected by swinging doors. The Central tent has all of the food on shelves, the food prep tables, and the wash basins with water. The rear tent has the stoves and ovens hooked to generators. The front tent has four tables and a few chairs for people to sit and eat. Someone had decorated this space with Christmas decorations and lights. There are service tables against two sides and here are where you can find condiments, utensils, plates, and cups. They had a lot of paper donations but were trying to be mindful of waste and use metal utensils and real plates. Everyone is encouraged to bring their own mug, plate, and eating utensil.

After breakfast was served, I sat and talked to people I met until about 12:00 noon. I met a film maker doing a documentary, a retired sailboat lady, Travis from a children’s school, a man from Bishop, California, a Washington State hippy dude who lived in a commune, a woman from New Zealand who was there with a group to perform a Haka, Nan, her husband, and two sons (pictured with one named Salmon). I also met two friends cutting the apples for apple pie and vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner (pictured). It was these conversations that later sprouted an idea.

There was someone who announced that there would be a raid on the camp. However, one of the security asked where this news came from. That a person should evaluate everything and not spread rumors that could disturb the peace. There are instigators and those people are quickly exposed when everyone is calm and connected and knows where to get the accurate information. Besides, no one cared what this rumor stated. No one was going to leave.

I sat in my car to get warm and to write some notes. I fell asleep as I was writing. It was here that I formed an idea. These people are not protestors and rioters, they are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, grandmothers, cousins, nurses, medics, lawyers, teachers, farmers, vets, retired people, rich, poor, educated, wise, homeless, they are everyone. I met in this one day people from over 10 different countries. I met people from all over California – yes even a few from Sacramento. One must humanize who is here.

I AM……….        WATER IS LIFE

I took a walk to the sacred fire around 2:00 p.m.. This fire must not be photographed. You must approach it with peace in your heart. You must respect this fire as a spirit.I brought a gift of tobacco for an elder and a gift of the Water is Life stickers. I thanked him for allowing me to be an ally.  There were some singing performances happening and then I heard of buses that were going to Ft. Yates to a high school for Thanksgiving dinner. I knew the California Kitchen was going to be very busy and crowded, so I got on a bus. I met a woman from Oakland and a school teacher and his aunt. As we were going to the high school, the driver had the radio on and was listening to a football game. An announcement interrupted the game coverage, it stated “Important! There are rioters and protestors in town. If you observe any suspicious activity or see any suspicious people, immediately call the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.” Wow, I thought, I wonder who the announcement was talking about because I had not met any!

Thanksgiving Dinner.  This dinner was provided by Jane Fonda. It was very beautiful and there was a great deal of delicious food. The servers were all volunteers and youngsters from the school. There were cards of thanks from children all around the world that were hung on the wall and placed on all of the tables. Archambault’s uncle prayed and spoke at length about the connection with the land and water. How we need to reconnect and teach the young people. He also told a story about Sitting Bull. How he always said he fought to defend the women and children. He never fought just because he wanted to fight from hate. He always fought to defend. We also heard a beautiful canoe song from the Pacific Northwest. There were many thanks to the celebrities who helped the camp and helped with the dinner.

Dinner: squash, mashed potatoes, carrots, stuffing, turkey, rice, bread, fry bread, tortilla, pumpkin pie. You are supposed to leave a little bit on your plate for the spirits.