This announcement was just released by One Spirit, an all-volunteer organization, and the only non-profit that has been endorsed by the Lakota Tribal Council to raise funds on behalf of the Lakota people.
Oglala Lakota youths from Pine Ridge Reservation were inside their tent at Standing Rock on December 7. A winter blizzard lasting for days continued to howl outside the tent walls with blowing snow and sub-zero temperatures. They have been there for weeks and were joined by veterans from Pine Ridge who went to Standing Rock last weekend, and by four others who needed shelter.
Water protectors who have been there for months remember the runners, the youths from Pine Ridge who became folk heroes on November 2. That was the day they arrived after running hundreds of miles to Standing Rock in the Perseverance for Preservation Run started by Riley Ortega. Riley is a 15-year-old Hopi from Arizona who was joined by runners from the Meskwaki, Apache, Standing Rock, Hopi and Navajo Nations and by a dozen Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge.)
Today, despite the bitter cold and blowing snow, they remain at Standing Rock because they do not trust DAPL even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied DAPL’s permit to drill under the Missouri River.
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DAPL pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners still contends the pipeline will go through as planned. Choppers are still flying over the encampment doing reconnaissance. Armed police still guard the drill pad that is still surrounded by razor wire.
Julian Bear Runner said this is a critical time.
“They’re gonna wait for us to leave,” he said. “But since 1492 we’ve always been here.”
They made their decision to stay following a sacred pipe ceremony on December 7 during the last blizzard.
“I asked the Creator, you know, ‘Have pity on us, have pity on the people,’ ” Julian said. “We must think like the buffalo nation. The buffalo faces the storm head-first. I asked the Creator to give us the strength of the buffalo.”
It is a harsh existence. In the middle of a sub-zero blizzard lasting days at a time, they stay inside a tent with winds raging outside, no cell phone service, no internet, no contact with the outside world. Meals consist of whatever is donated. When blizzards make travel and deliveries impossible, basic supplies like food and firewood can become scarce.
But on Thursday morning December 8, after their ceremony, the sun came out and the winds finally died down.
“See boys? The Creator heard our prayers,” Julian said, and assured them, “It doesn’t mean you’re less of a man if you want to go home.”
But they all chose to stay to support Standing Rock, to protect the sacred water for future generations, and to stand up to corporate greed in order to protect Mother Earth.
Then they discussed how they would return their van, since it is the property of the tribe. The van is what had gotten them to the Front Line, and it is their only means of transport.
Just then a truck with a trailer full of wood stopped, and the driver gave them half of the firewood for their tent.
Shortly afterward another truck pulled up, and the driver hollered out, “Hey, do you need supplies?”
He gave them some food left behind at another camp. Later he returned to give them a generator and food rations from some veterans who were leaving.
“Crowbar, they’re answering our prayers,” the youths said. (They have nicknamed Julian “Crowbar” because they say, “If there’s a job to do, he can figure out a way to do it.”)
When other veterans had to leave, they drove the veterans to their destination. The veterans seemed surprised and appreciative. Julian and Harold Goggleye are both veterans themselves and attended a ceremony of veterans supporting Standing Rock on behalf of the many veterans from Pine Ridge Reservation.
“That’s who we are as Lakota people,” Julian explained. “Those values are given to us by the Creator on how to live our lives.”
He thanked the veterans for their support.
“You came, and look….” he said. “The police left the barricade. The Army Corps denied DAPL’s permit.”
The Oglala youths spent the rest of that day chopping wood and being grateful.
Keeping warm is more challenging now that the temperature is consistently below zero. One Spirit* provided a large army tent with wood stoves. The youths hung metalized blankets on some of the tent walls inside to help heat it. They have sleeping bags that are good to zero degrees but not to sub-zero temperatures, and North Dakota’s wind chill makes it even colder. Another water protector leaving the campground after the blizzard donated five cots so that some of them are now able to sleep off the ground. More cots as well as pads under their sleeping bags would help keep them warm. More blizzards are forecast this week.
Since most of the camp Port-a-Potties were removed when they began freezing, on December 9 the youths began building a latrine. That is what was needed.
Two weeks ago, when Dom Cross was asked how people could help, he said, “Just try to get our message out that we need more prayers. That’s what’s going to beat this pipeline is all our prayers—not fighting. When all our prayers go up and are joined together they can’t be stopped. The more prayers there are, the stronger…”
Then he added earnestly, “To me we’re not protesting. We’re protecting, and we’re not just fighting for our water. We’re fighting for our next seven generations.”
(On November 20 Dom was shot in the kneecap with a rubber bullet and then shot in the back with a beanbag round when he was helping injured women and elders get up. His hood was frozen to his head from the water cannons.)
“What DAPL is doing is so bad, so very bad,” said Ted Feather Earring. “We just have to stand strong, have to resist violence, have to pray for the DAPL workers that one day they’ll realize what they’re doing is wrong.”
(On November 20 Ted was shot in the chest with a rubber bullet and thrown face-first on the ground when a concussion grenade was thrown toward him, exploding next to his head. He was also treated for hypothermia from the water cannons.)
“I’m hoping that the pipeline will stop and that they understand why we’re doing this, because it’s their water they’re contaminating as well, not just ours,” said 19-year-old Shane Phillips.
Asked about November 20, he said, “Now I see how police can be. They broke their oath to protect and serve. Hopefully it will never happen again, but—if it does—I would like to be there on the front line to protect the elders and the women.”
(Shane was tear-gassed, water cannoned and hospitalized on November 20.)
“I’m here doing this to save the future, to save water for the future – for the children of the next generation,” said Tyler Feather Earring.
When asked about November 20, Tyler quietly stated that it was very hard seeing women and the elderly being hurt by police and that he was feeling angry about that when it happened.
“But I had to just let it go and keep praying, staying strong—so strong,” he said. “And hopefully we can stop this pipeline that we call the Black Snake.”
(On November 20 Tyler was shot in the arm, breaking it; in the stomach, bruising it; in the face, knocking out teeth, and in the back when his brothers carried him away.)
All of the Oglala Lakota runners from Pine Ridge were assaulted by militarized police on November 20 with tear gas, water cannons and a variety of rubber bullets, mace, sound cannons, beanbag rounds and concussion grenades. All were hospitalized. They were treated for hypothermia, and every one of them was still sick three days later from exposure to tear gas and toxic chemicals. But they do not respond with violence. Neither do they back down. They stand their ground. And they pray. For everyone. And for sacred water that is the source of all life.
Now with the onset of the winter blizzards and temperatures consistently below zero, most people have left the Oceti Sakowin Main Camp where the Oglala Camp is and where these young men remain. They do it to protect the water for all of us and for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. They appreciate prayers and support.