The Holidays at Standing Rock

I took this photo when I was at camp on Halloween. Temperatures were already well below freezing at night.

The holidays are approaching at Standing Rock, along with a blizzard. Many of you heard that on December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not be granting the final easement that the Dakota Access Pipeline company needed in order to legally dig beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, and would instead seek to reroute the project away from the reservation. There was a massive roar of excitement as it seemed that months of hard work by thousands of activists from around the world had finally paid off and that the fight had been won. Most of the news media left, along with most of the people camped there to protect the water, at the request of many of the elders at the camp. The sacred fire at the heart of Oceti Sakowin Camp was extinguished and people were asked to leave to prevent injury or death in the clutches of the frigid and dangerous North Dakota winter.

But you may not have heard that this fight is far from over, folks. The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, said in a publicly released statement that they have no intention of rerouting their precious, multibillion-dollar pipeline. They are, as they said, “fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.” They are perfectly happy to pay the Army Corps’ $50K-per-day fee to keep digging illegally if it means getting the job done on their expedited timeline.

What that means is that, while on paper it appears that the Water Protectors have won, the fight has simply grown more desperate. As temperatures on the northern plains plummet below zero almost every day and a full-blown blizzard approaches the site of the camp just in time for the major winter holidays, a hardened core of deeply committed water protectors remains committed to standing strong. Efforts are under way to fully winterize the camp, with semipermanent structures being built, heating supplies stockpiled, green energy sources are being installed, and self-sufficiency is being prioritized, but with drastically reduced resources available, things are tough.

As you prepare to celebrate the solstice in the way that you prefer, please remember the people at Standing Rock. If they are able to prevent ETP from completing the pipeline before January 1, when many of the contracts that investors have made with the company are up for renewal, it’s possible that these investors may drop the deal, effectively killing “the black snake” once and for all. If this outcome doesn’t happen, there will be even greater need for these Water Protectors to stay where they are and refuse to give up the fight.

So what can you do? First of all, you can loudly and proudly take your money out of the banks who have invested in this project–make sure your bank knows WHY you’re removing yourself from their oil-drenched grasp with a letter or by taking video of yourself explaining to teller as you withdraw your money. And secondly, you can donate to the hardcore warriors who are still at the camp! There are a lot of videos flying around on YouTube asking for donations, but it’s not clear which ones are legit. However, my friend Kayti, who was at the camp until very recently when she was forced to leave due to financial troubles and sickness, has vouched for the people of the Red Lightning Tribe, who are helping to winterize the camp and are determined to stay there for the long haul. You can donate to their efforts to keep the camp on site here. The warriors of Sacred Stone Camp, the oldest of the camps at the site, is also still standing and accepting donations here. Don’t worry about the different names and different camps; they all share resources, so if you donate to one place, that means everyone there will benefit from your generosity.

Not everyone at the camps celebrates Christmas, but the water protectors can all use resources and reasons to celebrate the season! Do what you can to help them out, and to make your voice strong as you #StandWithStandingRock!

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