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.