As winter approaches, people continue to arrive at a protest encampment at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. They’re there to oppose construction of the Dakota Access Pipline or DAPL. More than 100 tribes have been represented. We share some of the sounds and voices from the Standing Rock.
Marcus Yellow Earrings identifies as Hunkpapa Lakota of the Standing Rock Nation. On a wind-whipped prairie, he describes what is happening.
Marcus Yellow Earrings: “Southwest of me is the main camp. People are there they’re not going to move. We’re here to stay. And these guys continually watch us each and every day so we don’t succeed at stopping their pipeline. People we need you here. We don’t need you saying you wish you could be here. If you’re an able person and you can walk you should be here. Like me, I walked here.”
Julie Fink needed to be here. She feels a deep solidarity with the cause that connects everyone at Standing Rock. Like thousands of other non-Native people, she decided to drive and see what is going on. Fink doesn’t call this a protest.
Julie Fink: “It’s a water protection site and a sacred site. To describe the scene, I am at a ceremonial camp that was set up with the intention to protect the water. The Cannonball River runs through this area, into the Missouri River and supplies water to millions of people.”
Fink says, “This camp was set up with the intention of holding sacred space. As you can hear in the background… there is a sacred fire that they keep burning here 24 hours a day. It’s tended by the elders. It’s a site for meeting and counsel, healing ceremonies, announcements. There’s a smell of smoke in the air. Lots of fires, lots of tents, as I look around, tipis, yurts, cars, campers…”
Guy Dull Knife is one elder who tends the sacred fires. He is a spiritual advisor for the American Indian movement, from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge South Dakota. Dull Knife rises at 4 a.m. each morning to pray and wake his relatives who also live at Standing Rock’s main camp.
Guy Dull Knife: “I’ve been fighting ever since I was drafted into the military. When I got out, my people were at war during the 70’s. It’s been an ongoing fight ever since. Fighting for treaty rights. Fighting for water. One thing after another. And then this new president that they elected. From what I hear, he’s really racist. I guess I can’t never retire, I just have to keep going. (laugh.) That’s what this meeting was about here, us elders. We have to think of something.”
Dull Knife says they pray for each other, for the earth and for president-elect, Donald Trump. (drum circle/chanting)
Guy Dull Knife: “I hope that somehow, our prayers will go to his heart. That’s the only thing we have left is hope...”
This story was produced with help from citizen activist Julie Fink, Shawn (Yoonski) Yoon with Asia N and Levi Gittleman with the University of Oregon Journalism School.
Extended interview with Guy Dull Knife and Korean writer Shawn Yoon
Extended audio of Julie Fink at Standing Rock