What We Learned at Standing Rock: A Guide for Allies

Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock

Two weeks ago, four of us decided to drive to Standing Rock and deliver supplies to the water protectors and protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline. We raised $3,500 in six days and filled two cars to the brim with milk of magnesia (for pepper spray in eyes), firewood, propane, sleeping bags, face masks, construction helmets and other supplies our contacts at the camp said they needed.

During our time there, we learned a great deal, particularly on how to be the best ally we can be. If you’re thinking of heading to Standing Rock or would like to support the movement in other ways, please read:

Ask Yourself Why You’re Going to Standing Rock

If you are going to Standing Rock for reasons other than dropping off supplies or offering skills such as direct action, legal or medical aid, food preparation or construction for an extended period of time, your presence might do more harm than good. Why? Because there are limited resources at the camp and potentially dipping into them without offering any in return is not only problematic, it’s disrespectful. If you must go to Standing Rock, make sure you bring the proper clothing (it can and will get down to below zero temperatures soon), sleeping equipment, food, water and other sundries so you won’t have to rely on donations brought into the camps. Also, please develop contacts at the camp first to ensure you are getting the right supplies for the water protectors.

Please Do Not Treat Standing Rock Like Adult Camp or a Music Festival

You’ve probably seen articles suggesting that music festival types are heading to Standing Rock. We saw people who fit the profile, but it’s not fair to assume what their intentions were. What I can confirm is that many people brought their dogs and let them run around the camps. One wonders why they’d bring their dog to a protest in below-freezing temperatures. Our Lakota neighbor at the camp, Kevin, explained to us as three wandering dogs scavenged around his tent, “We do not let our dogs in the house; we let them run in the wild. And this entire camp, this is a house — not the wild.” Showing up to Standing Rock in your festival garb only to participate in your own spiritual journey without respect to the systems the tribes have in place makes you a problem, not an ally.

If you go to Standing Rock, Respect What the Tribes Have Established

The protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is founded in sacredness and spirituality. For example, at the camp we were at, Oceti Sakowin, it was requested that you do not take photos unless you have media credentials, and even then you cannot photograph ceremonies. Also, at the same camp, it is encouraged for all to go to daily meetings to learn more about the Lakota values and how the camp operates. In other words: This is not our fight to take over — it is the Natives’ fight for us to support and back. And support is definitely needed, but in a way that respects and emboldens the water protectors.

Read and Share Information and News from Native Sources

We are all disappointed that mainstream media hasn’t adequately highlighted the human rights abuses that have occurred at Standing Rock, but this is a good time to share news and information from Native American sources. Here are Native-based sources to check out:

Indian Country Today Media Network (news)
Native American Times (news)
Dallas Goldtooth (Facebook profile)
Tom Harjo (Facebook profile & Instagram)
Lee Sprague (Facebook profile)
Digital Smoke Signals (Facebook page)
Oceti Sakowin Camp (Facebook page)
Sacred Stone Camp (Facebook page)
Red Warrior Camp (Facebook page)
Indigenous Rising Media (Facebook page)
Native Opinion (podcast)
Native Appropriations (blog)
Indianz.com (blog)
Jenni Monet (writer)

Donations From Home are Very Important

Just because you can’t physically be at Standing Rock, it doesn’t mean you can’t be helpful. In fact, you may be even more helpful. Here are ways you can support the water protectors at Standing Rock:

Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Oceti Sakowin Camp
The Michigan Canoe Cold Water Rescue Team (they are first responders who help protectors involved in direct action. We met Lee and his team and I encourage you to donate to them.)
Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council

Call and Voice Your Concern About Human Rights Abuse:
The White House 202–456–1111
Department of Justice 202–514–2000
North Dakota govorner 701.328.2200
Morton County Police Department 701–667–3330
Here is an excellent list of phone numbers to call from Indian Country Today Media Network. It’s from October, so some of the information could be obsolete.

If you know of any Native news sources or donation pages I should add to the list, please write in the comments below.

                               Where a rubber bullet struck water protector & first responder Lee Sprague

This post originally appeared on my Medium page.

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  • Reply Ellen January 9, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Just found your blog via your Medium posts — and am glad I did. My husband and I are full-time RVers, traveling the country, and crossed the Dakota pipeline in June of 2016 near Sioux Falls, SD. Much of that stretch was well underway, and though I checked out the Website at the time and saw a way to protest (albeit online) against it, it seemed a done deal. We were thrilled to see later all of the support given to the protesters up in ND. Your post is the best thing I’ve seen about it — clear about how to help and how to behave while helping. Too many people get the wrong impression, and you really went to the heart of that. Thank you!

    • Reply hipstercrite January 9, 2017 at 2:44 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words and stopping by my blog!

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