Standing with Standing Rock: Day 2

Our tent. And that's before it got really bad.

Our tent. And that’s before it got really bad.

Monday, November 28, 2016. I have a knack for timing: our first night in a tent at Standing Rock coincides with the first snowstorm of the season. It’s a soft, wet, gentle snow. Yet it clings to the walls of our tent, threatening to collapse the fragile structure. Repeatedly during the night, we pound on the tent walls to free them of snow.

There’s little wind, so the sounds of camp nightlife are audible and drift towards us from all directions. The sounds are abundant and loud. They continue late into the night. Singing and drumming. Voices joking and strategizing. Our tent remains warm and dry, but between camp noise and tent-wall snow removal duty, sleep is minimal.

The next morning, the weather goes from bad to worse, with more snow and high winds that lead to blizzard conditions. Lyssa and I opt for breakfast at the casino, which is both satisfying in terms of the price tag, and unsatisfying in terms of nutrition and quality.

Lyssa and Ed braving the blizzard en route to the meeting of elders in the dome.

Lyssa and Ed braving the blizzard en route to the meeting of elders in the dome.

Manape LaMere, a camp leader and one of the seven elders, invites us to a meeting of camp elders. Lyssa and I lean into the blizzard for the grueling ten-minute walk from our tent site to the dome.

We assemble in a cold, crowded structure heated by a wood stove. The air is filled with a cocktail of smoke from sage, wood and tobacco. With people constantly coming and going, bursts of blizzard air slip in through the dome’s entrance. The interior never warms up much.

The meeting is long, interesting, important. The Elders talk about tribal unity, and the importance of non-native allies remembering that they are guests, and not here to provide leadership. The camp is governed by Native leaders using traditional structures and time-honored procedures. This is likely to be foreign, uncomfortable to non-natives at the camp. It is easy for those of us from a western mindset to slip into a mode of benevolent, well-intentioned colonialism. It is easy for us to want to take over, insist on a “better” way to do things.

It is solid advice. White folk still have this imperial mindset, where are the ones to fix things, the ones who ride to the rescue.

I don’t watch a lot of movies, but as I listen, Dances With Wolves comes to mind, where it takes a white guy, Kevin Costner, to help the Indians figure out how to save themselves (of course, he fails).

Ed, Manape LaMere and Julie LaChappa. Julie partook in the Farmers Defense Camp and civil disobedience in Iowa.

Ed, Manape LaMere and Julie LaChappa. Julie partook in the Farmers Defense Camp and civil disobedience in Iowa.

At what point will European-Americans, as individuals and collectively, move beyond the failed notion that we have all the answers? Clearly, we have a ways to go if Congressman Steve King can disparage non-white constituencies as “sub groups,” while making the outrageous statement that historically, all valuable contributions come from whites.

After each of the Elders has spoken, Manape invites me to share with them what’s happening in Iowa in opposition to the pipeline. I am honored to have been given this opportunity, and talk about landowner and farmer resistance, upcoming court hearings, and Jessica Reznicek’s open-ended fast demanding revocation of Dakota Access’ permit.

They appreciate my report and the commitment of their allies in Iowa. But here at Standing Rock, this movement is more than just a fight against the pipeline. It is a movement of historic proportions. It is a movement that is just beginning, a movement involving the cultural revival of traditions, I believe, that will supplant the failed, non-sustainable paradigms that have dominated Western civilization.

I ask Manape what happens after the pipeline fight is over, once we’ve stopped the Black Snake.

“The traditional chiefs who’ve been appointed to lead this camp are looking to build a future that is sustainable and eco-friendly,” says Manape. “We’re a community where people are showing up with wonderful technology, whether it’s heating or cooling systems or just general power usage.”

“And this new form of government we’re building is breathing life into our people, reviving the significance of our treaties,” says Manape. “Some people get it, some people don’t. But what we’re doing is going to save non-Natives as well as Natives.”

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Standing with Standing Rock: Day 1

Sunday, November 27, 2016. Nothing about Standing Rock is normal or predictable. As Lyssa and I approach the Oceti Sakowin camps just north of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, our GPS navigator announces, “In six miles, park your car and walk to your destination.”

We ignore these instructions, as well as the sign telling us that the road ahead is closed. “Is this right,” asks Lyssa. “Shouldn’t we have taken that turn back there?”

I confidently mutter a few words that belie my uncertainty. But we continue, and a few miles later over the crest of a hill, we gasp and fall silent. “Holy shit,” says Lyssa, as the sprawling, chaotic brilliance of Oceti Sakowin unfolds before us. The camps fill the valley, fill the imagination, defying all that is normal, conventional, acceptable.

the-sprawlng-camp-img_0946-sized-for-icontactI try to imagine the tipis of the Great Sioux Nation that once occupied these lands many years ago. I’m reminded that this movement is not simply about stopping an oil pipeline. As a coalition of our Native allies wrote, “Our fight is not just about a pipeline project. It is about 500 years of colonization and oppression. This is our moment, a chance to demand a future for our people and all people.”

delivering-supplies-img_0941-sized-for-icontactThere’s a check point at the camp entrance, and a young Native man tells us where to drop off donations. We have food, clothing, blankets and medical supplies, and each needs to be delivered to a different location. We get lost multiple times, ask directions, and each time receive conflicting instructions. The chaos visible from afar is quickly verified up close.

With our deliveries accomplished, we head across the Cannon Ball River to look for Mekasi Horinek, my colleague from Bold Oklahoma. We’re hoping to pitch our tent in Mekasi’s “neighborhood.” But given the massive size of the camps and nonexistent cell phone service, we’re unable to find him.

img_0961-copyFood service at the camps is stretched to the max, so we want to be as self-sufficient as possible. We set up our tent in a spot out of the wind on the south side of the Cannon Ball River. Lyssa pulls out her stove, and in less than an hour we’re enjoying a delicious meal of mac and cheese with peppers from my garden in Des Moines.

At dusk, along with a couple thousand other water protectors, we head to the nearby casino for a benefit concert featuring Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt. Lyssa strikes up a conversation with a man who tells her he was in favor of the pipeline until just last week. He’s very offended by the violent tactics used against peaceful protestors, and now dead set against the pipeline. He thanks Lyssa for being here, thanks her for speaking out, and gives her a casino voucher worth $21.95.

The last few weeks, I’ve heard from more and more people who haven’t been involved with the pipeline fight but are now fired up and taking action. Opposition to fossil-fuel extraction and infrastructure is only going to continue to grow.

As we leave the concert, it’s just starting to snow. We crawl along, following a long line of vehicles back to the camps. This is Lyssa’s first time ever sleeping in a tent, and I tease her about her good fortune. “Not only do you get cold temps but you get snow, too.”

I am confident we can stay warm and dry. Any discomfort we encounter while tenting will be minimal compared to the hardship and injuries inflicted on water protectors who have been attacked mercilessly by law enforcement on several occasions.

Whether or not we’ll encounter such violence remains to be seen. Tomorrow, we hope to meet with camp leaders, share with them an update on what’s happening on the pipeline in Iowa, and help build cold-weather structures for those planning to stay at Standing Rock through the winter.

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Silver-linings in Election Day cloud

Dear Friends,

Being swamped with anti-pipeline work, I’ve been slow to process my take-away on Donald Trump’s Election Day victory. Bottom line: Trump’s presidency presents two tremendous opportunities.

More on that in a moment. First, it’s important to acknowledge that lots of bad things could happen over the next four years — especially with regards the U.S. Supreme Court and climate change. Trump has already backed-away from some of his more draconian campaign rhetoric on immigration and healthcare, although plenty of harmful changes could be advanced on those fronts, too.

With climate change, given his likely appointment of deniers Myron Ebell and Harold Hamm to key posts in his administration, Trump shows no indication of modifying his climate extremism.

So yes, we have reason to be scared. Americans who supported Trump in the general election, or Bernie Sanders in the primary, are justifiably angry and ready to topple the status quo. Sanders laid blame where it belongs. Trump’s supporters mistakenly blame constituencies who are themselves victims of the collusion of big business and big government.

But take heart. There are two silver linings. Silver lining #1:

We’re already seeing tremendous push-back against President-elect Trump. As Trump, Congress and Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country try to enact regressive changes on immigration, LGBT equality, civil liberties, eminent domain and the environment, the response from a wide swathe of Americans is only going to grow more vocal and more organized.

Many who join the fight against these changes will be disillusioned Trump supporters, just as many of President Obama’s most active and vocal critics were voters who campaigned for him in 2008. It’s important to welcome them into the fight, unconditionally.

Then there’s the incredible energy unleashed by Sanders during the presidential primary. That energy is now mobilizing millions of Americans through Our Revolution, building a reform movement like none this country has seen in a long, long time. This movement will temper some of the worst proposals put forth over the next four years, and be poised to shift power in 2020.

Which brings me to silver-lining #2:

Nearly everyone recognizes that the Democratic Party is politically and morally bankrupt. The elitists who control the Party have been fully exposed as out-of-touch corporate apologists. The moment for us to reclaim the Party for the people has arrived.

And let’s be clear: All this talk coming from the Democratic Establishment about getting the so-called two wings of the Party to work together is a distraction. Sure, the Establishment is a wing — and one so broken and battered it simply needs to be cut off and discarded. Progressives, on the other hand, are not a wing of the Party. We’re the bird!

The changes America truly needs are on the verge of coming to fruition. Accomplishing them will require patience, perseverance, sacrifice and wisdom. Success is contingent upon nurturing these two silver linings: (1) a grassroots uprising to fight against regressive policy change, and (2) reclaiming the Democratic Party for the people.

Are you ready to help make it happen? I am!

Thanks – Ed Fallon

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NoDAPL National Day of Action Includes Des Moines, Omaha

Dear Friends,

People have been asking me my thoughts on the election, and why I seem to have been silent. Honestly, I simply haven’t had time to fully collect what I want to say and write, what with a string of summits, actions and concerts on the pipeline this week. After tomorrow’s big Day of Action, I’ll be able to get that done, and will welcome your feedback.

And it may surprise you that I have a somewhat optimistic outlook on how this is going to roll over the next four years.

And yes, the NoDAPL National Day of Action promises to be a really big deal. I hope you can attend the action nearest to you. Click here for detail on the action nearest to you.

For pipeline fighters in Iowa and Nebraska, I hope you’ll join us tomorrow at on or both of these events. Here’s the press release. Thanks! – Ed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 14, 2016
Contact Ed Fallon at 515-238-6404 or ed@boldiowa.org

NoDAPL National Day of Action Includes Des Moines, Omaha

On Tuesday, November 15, tens of thousands of people will be joining together at over 200 actions in all 50 states to stand with Water Protectors at Standing Rock and farmers and landowners in Iowa who are holding the line against the Dakota Access pipeline.

WHAT: #NoDAPL Solidarity Rally
WHERE: Neal Smith Federal Building, 210 Walnut St., Des Moines
WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 15, 1:00 – 1:30 p.m.

Afterwards, participants will carpool to join Native allies and Bold Nebraska at the Army Corps office in Omaha at 4:30 p.m. They will display banners, flags and signs with slogans such as:

Stand in Prayer. Stop the Pipeline.
Solidarity with Standing Rock and Iowa #NoDAPL
Pres. Obama: Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

“The Army Corps fast-tracked the Dakota Access Pipeline without proper consultation, and now bulldozers are approaching Standing Rock and working quickly to finish up construction here in Iowa,” said Bold Iowa director, Ed Fallon. “With coordinated, massive demonstrations across the country, we’ll make it clear that we will not allow the Obama Administration or the incoming president to sacrifice Indigenous rights, our water or our climate.”

One of the day’s largest actions is expected in Washington, DC, where hundreds are expected to risk arrest. At 3:00, pipeline fighters will meet at the National Portrait Gallery and walk to the Army Corps Headquarters for a peaceful sit-in at 4:00. That will be followed by a rally, then a march to the White House at 5:00.

# # # # #

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Weaver a true ally in pipeline fight

Dear Friends,

obama-on-dapl-now-thisEvery day or two, there’s a new twist in the fight to stop the Dakota Access “Bakken” Pipeline. Last night, President Obama was asked about it on “Now This News.” (https://twitter.com/nowthisnews/status/793641140184461313). He spoke of the possibility of “rerouting” the pipeline. Sorry, Mr. President, but that’s not what we’re demanding.

If you are at all serious about climate change, you know full well that there is no safe “reroute.”

If you are the environmentalist we hoped and believed you were when you first campaigned in Iowa in 2007-2008, you know that this pipeline will eventually contaminate water and land where ever the inevitable spill(s) occur.

If you are true to the words you shared last year with our Native Allies at Standing Rock, you understand that a detour is not going to respect the passion and commitment they feel toward all land and water in their ancestral homeland, and beyond.

If the bond you formed with Iowans in 2008 still means something, you’ll empathize with the hundreds of farmers and landowners who have fought this pipeline for over two years, and you’ll stop this assault on their livelihoods and property rights.

So, no, we’re not interested in a “reroute.” We want this pipeline stopped. Period. And we are counting on you and the Army Corps of Engineers to do the right thing . . . and soon.

Kim Weaver speaks from the heart against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Climate Revolution Rally.

Kim Weaver speaks from the heart against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Climate Revolution Rally.

Among Iowa congressional candidates, there is only one who has been on our side in this pipeline fight: Kim Weaver — and she’s been with us from the beginning.

During my 400-mile walk along the pipeline route in 2015, I stayed with Kim in NW Iowa. Kim’s early opposition to the pipeline was strong and clear. She didn’t equivocate, hedge or pull any punches, as so many politicians are inclined to do. She was against the pipeline, and continues to speak out against it as she campaigns across western Iowa.

Kim is challenging Congressman Steve King. Yeah, that’s a tough assignment. But these are interesting and unpredictable political times. Kim’s running a great campaign. I fully support her, have donated generously, and hope you’ll take a couple minutes to do so, too. Here’s the link to her donation page: https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/weaverforiowaexpresss.

Beyond the pipeline, Kim and I share a lot of issues in common. I greatly admire her work with our elderly, which she does tirelessly, day after day. Her proposal for clean water is innovative, cost-effective and timely. And her policy proposals on education, health care and immigration make, well, a lot more sense than what we’re used to hearing from the Fourth District. Check out her website for more detail: http://weaverforcongress.nationbuilder.com.

Needless to say, I have never heard Kim malign an immigrant, foreigner, homosexual or Harriet Tubman. And I’ll bet you a dozen eggs she won’t decorate her congressional office with the confederate flag.

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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