A Firsthand Account of the Standing Rock Protests from a White Outsider

By Doctor Comrade

I received an email today from a family member who went to participate in the Standing Rock protests. Here is the text of his email, edited only to protect his private information.

Hi,

You asked me to write down some details about my trip to the DAPL [Dakota Access Pipeline] protests in North Dakota so here we go: I left in my truck and camper the day after Trump was elected and had that to think about all the way over to the Bismarck, ND area, which is just north of the protest site. It’s a long drive from north Idaho to halfway across ND. Once I got to the Bismarck area I headed south on highway 1806, the direct route to the protest site. The local radio had reported the authorities had closed the road but I went to see for myself. After going about 20 miles south on 1806 it was indeed blocked by police/trooper types in full combat gear with helmets, face masks, body armor, and automatic weapons. I was stopped a ways up from the actual road block by a trooper who waved me over to the roadside. He was young, polite, and very nice, he explained the road was closed for public safety but did answer my question about how to get around it to the protest camp via highway 6 and a side road. So I headed back north on 1806, found the side road but it had an electronic sign saying highway 6 was closed too. It was late so I camped near Lake Oahe.

The next day I went back up north to Bismarck (Mandan), cut over to highway 6, drove the longer route south through Solen and made it to the protest camp from the south. The camp itself is spread along both sides of the Cannon Ball river, I had to enter through a NA [Native American] secured gate. A large sign said “This is a sacred place, no drugs or alcohol, everyone subject to search.” The NAs at the gate asked me about my intentions, did I have any alcohol or drugs, etc.. I told them I had beer in the ice chests I carried behind the camper and told them to take it. They did, then thanked me for not hiding it and that was the end of the search. Anyway, they said I could camp wherever I wanted and suggested I get to one of the daily orientation classes to get started in the camp. I found a good spot on the river bank and spent the rest of the day walking around the sprawling camp. There were hundreds of tents, temporary structures, RV campers, tepees, and flags all over. The different Sioux tribes had their own areas and flags, as well as other tribes. There were communal dining facilities along with showers, large bins of free clothes and canned food, even a ‘Mental Health’ tepee. Really.  It occurred to me this was the safest little “town” in the NW: no crime, no violence, no theft, positive regard from all to all, everyone united for a common purpose. It reminded me of the anti-nuclear protest camp at Diablo Canyon in California in the 80s and the anti-uranium mining protests in northern Australia in the 70s. Wonderful, wonderful feeling -- I sure have missed it. (Anyone seen my freak flag?)

There were no expectations or commitments of anyone in the camp, just help where you wanted to. Or not. Since there were no demonstrations while I was there I worked with a crew doing winterizing on the structures that would be there through the winter. And they are digging in for the winter to see this protest through, while winter could come any day. While walking around the camp I noticed some of the NAs had put fencing around their structures and had brought their CATS, so you know they are there to stay as long as necessary. The aging, white hippy gray but proud crowd was well represented, we exchanged knowing smiles and many handshakes. Yes, the hippies are still saving the world, again.

We had a wind storm the first night I was there. The next morning many of the new, high tech-type camping tents were caved in or blown around the camp. None of the NA structures or tepees appeared damaged, they know what they are doing. The tepees really got my attention, they are big and spacious, powerful up close. The covering material these days is a canvass/tarp-type fabric, long removed from buffalo hide. Now I want my own tepee man cave, it would be so cool.

When I left I donated what canned food, water, and wood I had. The camp is in need of winterizing supplies of all kinds, even better is money people could donate through the NA protest sites online. I am very worried about the protest’s future, I predict carnage on the plains if the authorities try to ram the pipeline through. These NAs and their supporters simply will not give in. So, brace yourself, I’m afraid things will have to get worse before they get better.

When he arrived home, he learned about the planned eviction of the protest camp by the Army Corps of Engineers schedule for December 5. When I spoke to him this morning, he said it would "end in tragedy."