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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8 thoughts on “Standing with Standing Rock: Day 2

  1. jackie Leckband

    our prayers are with you and Every One there …
    Thank you for sharing news from standing rock.
    we are with you all in spirit.

  2. Kathleen

    Ed, so glad you are keeping us updated. I wonder if your wife, Lyssa, had second thoughts after her first rough night in a tent! I am in Newton, Iowa and have been following since August. Have not participated in any direct nonviolent action events, but have given money and ordered several things for Mississippi Stand. I would like to have a better excuse than senior citizen with poor knees, but I do what I can from home. Someone from the Newton Daily News messaged me last night asking if I knew of any local vets participating this coming weekend. I did not know of any, although I posted the event in several Newton sites. Just had a thought – since you are such a great writer, perhaps down the snowy road you could write an editorial for the Newton Daily News. Stay warm and safe and post pics when you can. Water Is Life Kathy

    1. Julie Jeffries

      Wait a minute! Did she say “wife”? Lyssa? Did you forget to tell me something? ;0) They are not married, at least I don’t think…

  3. ricky grannan

    The news, the reports, the people talkin, must be 1964-“Peace be with you”, may the sprit be with all of you”..

  4. Tamara Carlson

    I hear there is a $1000 fine to people bringing supplies. What do you need? I was in Boone and at an event at Simon Estes, we have kinda met 😊 Give some time to gather supplies and figure out how to get them to you.

  5. Julie Powell-Mohr

    Ed and Lyssa–Thank you for taking us into the camp, and into the heart of the Native peoples. I am so grateful for their vision on behalf of all of us and am keeping all of you wrapped in support and energy from a distance. We have much to learn from them. Your stories are powerful testimonials. I especially appreciated your including some of their decision-making process and Manape’s vision of what happens when the struggle against the pipeline is over.