Oceti Sakowin Camp is the largest gathering of Water Protector emcampments.
Clan Mother Rachelle Figueroa, 65, holds her pipe bag, which holds her sacred chanupa which has been passed down for 17 generations. The sacred chanupa pipe is used in sundance ceremony and hanblechia, which is vision quest, and other water ceremonies. The prayer flags, the six different colors, they have a big tobacco ball with each color - West is black, north is red, east is white, south is yellow, father sky is blue, Mother Earth's green, and I have purple because I used to go in the women's prison in Los Angeles and pray just sweat lodge for it's those behind bars to remember them.
The Mayan’s were the first ones to prophesize this 20 years ago, the shift began in 2012 when their calendar stopped – going from the fifth world into the new world.
This is the time and we need to do it standing next to the men. Not in front of them, but together and have that balance so that we can move forward. Once they experience and feel that love and compassion, men will do anything the women say. They just want to be loved. Once they understand we're not, it's not about women's lib, but it's about making the world come back into harmony, and for our children, and for every living creature basically.
The prophecies were that all these through this time, through this past world it has been matriarchal and everything has been decided by the men nation. Because of that unbalance that has come about that has brought disharmony, conflict, competition, power, greed and wars.. it would come to a point where a crossroad came we would have to stop and really listen to these original laws that were given to us.
The Earth, the mother, she is a living female spirit, and the water is her veins. In Australia they say the Great Barrier Reef was the kidneys of Mother Earth, ones from the Amazon have said the Amazon is the lungs of Mother Earth and here in South Dakota they say the Black Hills is the heart of Mother Earth. Black Mesa or also called Big Mountain where Peabody Coal Company has for decades pulled coal out of that land is known as the liver of Mother Earth. What happens when your liver gets sick, ill, or cancerous?
Bill Left Hand Sr., Hunkpapa Lakota, from Standing Rock, North Dakota
This unity that we have here is something our whole world needs now. Our government is falling apart. Our government is not using their own protocols to our standards of living everywhere. We got to stand up and make some changes. We're all here for the same purpose. Just being here and realizing the aspects of the whole thing, it simply changes you. I'm glad to be here. I'm here to support as long as this goes on.
We're doing this in a peaceful and prayerful manner. Yet we getting shot at and maced by militarized police officers that don't belong in this state. They are all coming from out-of-state. They're doing this to us. It's another atrocity that they place among our doorsteps. It ain't right. We have to fix it. That's why our nations are here.
When will this corporation listen to us? Apparently they're not because they're bullying their way through our lands. They're tearing up our sacred sites. They're tearing up our burial sites. In our belief, when you do something like that there's a price to pay.
Daphne Singingtree, 65, is a traditional practitioner and a medicine maker from Eugene, Oregon says her “emphasis is on healing and on protecting the protectors” at Standing Rockand her family is from Standing Rock on her dad’s side. “I inherited land here so this is my fight. It's personal” This specific land means something to me because of my ancestors; Custer’s soldiers murdered my great, great grandmother on the land. My great grandmother was orphaned at the age of 11 and then had to raise her two brothers when Custer's soldiers came into a town and shot up a town killing a number of women and children.
On a global or a political level, it's all about the earth, it's all about the water, it's all about protection of the environment against the corporate greedy mother rapers.
I consider this movement to be ... I like to say that what we're going through right now is like a labor and a birth. That the movement is really in the works. Like now, experiencing some labor pains and that's why there's some chaos and disorganization. A lot of people have never done anything like this before. Indian country is not real rife in political activism. It's like people coming together for the first of really diverse backgrounds. Both tribal and indigenous people as well as supporters from all walks of life and all nations, all together for this one force of protecting the water. It's so absolutely extraordinary not only because of the protection of the water is the fact that all of these people have gotten together to share this one vision.
The land for me has always just been sort of this really beautiful, ancestral like landscape that I've just been lucky enough to walk upon… The land is definitely just this beautiful giver, and it's this endless supply of substance that is always providing for us. Then the water, the water is a woman, this great mother who's just always providing life. Endlessly, tirelessly providing life and I've always felt such a deep love for the water just because she brings so much to us. She helps us renew. She helps us wash away, she helps us restore and for me I see the water and the land as a mother and a daughter.
We pray for the birds and why we pray for the sky, why we pray for the earthworms and why we pray for the grass. All these different things, I understand why there's so much beauty in the day-to-day things and being out here you know you're not constantly surrounded by distractive things.
You're forced to look at things in their most simplistic form and appreciate them for what they are and what they are is a culmination of everything that Mother Earth is, there are bits and pieces that represent resemblance of a whole. That whole is Mother Earth and it's just remarkable. Even though sometimes it scares me when I have those realizations. At least I'm here and at least I'm with people who understand why it is, because it's so important why our fight is so important. Because not a lot of people understand, obviously if they did we wouldn't be getting beat up by police to protect the most basic and beautiful thing.
Rhonda Lee Grantham, 40, is from the Bird family of the Cowlitz Nation in southwest Washington and is a home birth midwife in Washington State. She has been attending births as labor support and as a midwife for over 20 years. She also works half of my year internationally, working to support indigenous midwives.
Water is life. Water is also a feminine property. We come from water. We live in monthly rhythms with water. Water is our beginning and our bodies are of water. It means everything. Water is life is the perfect statement for all of us that are living on this planet; regardless of what culture we live in now or will return to. Water is life.
It's about being grounded in connection to the earth wherever you're standing. It's about having people holding you and supporting you all around. That's what's important in the environment. I wouldn't get lost in the conversation of a definition of an environment.
Being able to birth in your own communities instead of leaving and going far away from the people that you know, trust, and love, that you have a forever connection to is absolutely an important part. I believe strongly that indigenous midwives serving their own communities is a goal that we need to strive for all around the world, and the reason is because we're connected to those babies for life. When I walk around my town I see babies that are now teenagers that I will always be accessible to their family. I will always be willing to serve their family. That's an agreement and a promise I make with every birth. That it's not just about the birth experience; it's about birthing a family and birthing the next generation. That I want to support however that unfolds for people.
Dr. Jody E Noé, 57, Cherokee Native, mothers family dates back to the 1700s to the same piece of land in Horry County, South Carolina. Noé is a naturopathic physician, a licensed and practiced doctor for 21 years a herbalist for over 35 years and I'm trained by my elders as a Cherokee medicine person.
This is not just native people protecting their land and trying. This is an actual gathering that we've prophesied. My people, these people, there's no cell phones. How come we all have the same prophecy? Coast-to-coast on Turtle Island which is this whole North American continent we've had the same prophecies about the black snake that will come to destroy this Earth, this planet, this mother, our beloved heartbeat and the only thing that's going to stop that black snake because it's so big in this abridged version of the prophecy is the rainbow warriors.
Alex Anderhowlend, 21, from Hickory-Apache Reservation in Dulce, New Mexico, arrived at camp on August 18th. Anderhowlendsays, “I was only supposed to stay here a week and a half, cause I had classes in Birmingham, New Mexico at the San Juan College that following week. But I just ended up staying and loved it, and don't regret it.”
Unci Maka, means mother earth in Lakota.
Mother Earth brought everyone here. She knows what the future holds. She knows what will happen if this pipeline were to break. She knows cause it's already happened to her. She has that sense of urgency; cause mother Earth is her own spirit, her own being. She brought everyone here to defender her, to protect her. She's protected us since the beginning of time and I believe in my heart that just all these greater powers, whoever you think of. Whether it be Buddha, whether it be god, Wakan Tanka. How you pray, and no matter what deities you pray to, I believe I believe that one of the purest of those is mother Earth. Because she been here for so long. She's seen people grow. She's seen the world evolve to what it is now. She knows when she needs to start defending herself. And I think how that happens is she doesn't do it physically, she does is spiritually. She sends out those vibes, those prayers and call for use to come and defender her.
I believe they (the water protectors) were drawn. That she drew them here. That she drew them here to help defend her, to help defend this land. She wants us to start standing up for our own selves, and start standing up for her as well.
Amanda Silvestri, 65, from Crestline, California in the San Bernardino Mountains is a veteran of the 509th Airborne Infantry.
I'm concerned about the environment, generally. I'm a proponent of alternative fuel sources. I know that we receive a lot more energy from the sun than we use. It's relatively free, comparatively speaking anyway. A sunshine spill never hurt anything.
We need to put our greed aside, start thinking like grandparents. What kind of a world are we leaving our kids and our grandkids? Are we going to have water to drink? Are we going to have air to breathe? Are we going to have soil to grow crops in?
I took an oath to defend this country and the people against all enemies foreign and domestic. This oil company is a domestic enemy. Its been shooting people with rubber bullets, attacking them with dogs, shooting water at them in freezing weather. Where all they're doing is exercising their First Amendment rights. I happen to support the Bill of Rights. Call me old fashioned, but that's what I signed up for. Somebody needs to stand up and defend it. Whether you believe in their cause or not, what's happening to them is wrong.
There's a quote that I like very much. I forget who said it. It goes, "I may not agree with what you say, but I would defend with my life your right to say it." This is what I'm doing here today. I'm putting myself in harm's way to make sure that these people are able to say what they need to say, defend the water that they need to defend.
Lee Plenty Wolf, 60, is Ogalala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation. He is one of the lead elders at Standing Rock and mentor of newly elected young headsmen of Oceti Sakowin.
We've lost a lot of land to history. We have to stand up for our rights
One the third morning, usually I get up and I look to the east to pray. You know, even if it's a small prayer. But that morning, I glanced at the east, and I looked to the north, and the first vision that came to me was Wounded Knee, the first massacre. You know? I got a little emotional.
That's when I decided I couldn't leave.
This concerns all people. If we're all going to survive and try to prolong self destruction on this planet we all need to work on it, no matter what race, no matter where, what country, what age, we all need to work on it. We all need to pray hard. We all need to make positive improvements with the environment. Cause ... It's still inevitable. You know. Enough destruction has been done.
Without water, nothing survives. We're what, 75% water? Plants, medicines? Everything needs water. Four leggeds. Everything needs water. That's the only way to survive. Good water.
Candace Ducheneaux, 67, is Oglala Sioux from Cheyenne River Reservation but had to move to Eagle Butte at 10 years old when the lands were flooded after the Army Corps of Engineers began work on the Big Bend Dam in South Dakota by using eminent domain.
We were making a good life there along the river. It was another act of genocide, like I said. We were flooded out down there. We lost those rich bottom lands, we lost all of them timber lands, we lost all of those native plants and medicine foods. That was our way of life, we got by on that. We thrived on that. All the wildlife, what people call wildlife game, and wildlife resources. All taken away from us and we were moved up here on top, up on the flats here on the prairie. It was a harsh, harsh, environment, climate. Brutal summer suns and the winds are ... incessant winds, as you know. No shelter from the winter weather. It was a hard life, the adjustment to make. We were brought up here and we moved our agency, our agency was moved.
They (the government) paid us for loss. As it turned out, what they paid my mother and father for their lands that they lost wasn't as much as they paid the white man across the river for his lands that he lost. My father was a chairman of the tribe and my mother worked for him
What we have to do, is start harvesting the rain water and heal the world water cycle. That's what I wanted to get around to. That's what happened when they flooded our lands down there, is they wholly interrupted the water cycle that is necessary to regeneration of life.
What we have to do is, repair that water cycle. The way to do that is to re-establish the small water cycle over our own micro-environment. That means, what I'm saying, we all have to take responsibility. They say water restoration begins in your own backyard. You have to start thinking of your own self and how you can do it. Like I said, all of humanity has to become involved.
Our solution, a very simple solution, which requires the use of local materials and local labor in order to build water retention structures. This is not like your big mega-dams, or big stock dams that you see as you go through the reservation that are there for the cattle. These are ... In fact, we're not talking about stopping the waters. We're talking about checking the waters. This will be on all of the water, not the rivers and creeks, but the smaller streams and water courses that have been cut through erosion.
That's what's happening now when we get these rains, these hard extreme rains. They come and, not only is it instant run off and we lose that water, but we lose a lot of soil with it, our rich top soil. There it goes. That is why the earth is in such ill health. When all those permeable soils are washed away then there is no way that that water can infiltrate into and replenish the ground waters, our springs and even our surface waters to start that replenishment.
You know where the water comes down in the rain, to the river, to the ocean and evaporated back up and moves back over to the land. It's a cycle, but within that cycle is small water cycles that keeps that water going. That's what we've got to re-establish because it's been destroyed.
In order to do that, we've got to track those rain waters and we're going to do that with these water retention ... A myriad, throughout the world, throughout the reservation, throughout the world, of water retention structures. Like I said, natural, local materials, local labor.
What Kravcik over did over there in Slavakia, he's a Slavakian hydrologist, I didn't get to telling you about that. He's a Goldman Prize, Environmental Prize recipient for his work over there where he saved the lands and people from the damming of the river there.
Vanessa Redbull, 54, Cherokee Nation, is a paramedic from Oklahoma working on Oceti Sakowin Camp working in the Western Medic Yurts on the main camp while also assisting at Rosebud camp and Sacred Stone Camp. Redbull says, “When the call came out on social media to come, for natives to come and stand with Standing Rock, to help protect the water, I knew that I had a purpose for being here and I came to bring my medical skills, to take care of the native people and to help protect that water.”
What do you think about the announcement that the easement was not granted and Chairman, Dave Archambault decision to tell people to go home for the winter?
That is a small victory. We have gone down this slippery path before, they say, "Oh they're not drilling, they can't drill," and yet they continue to drill. Not one single light has come down from that hill. They're still at it. They still have all of their vehicles here, nobody's pulled out, they're not going to stop because the fines that they're going to pay for continuing to work is less than it's going to cost them to stop building the pipeline. On paper it looks good, but in reality it's just a big old smoke screen. Nothing has changed, nothing has stopped.
I am so thankful to him (Archambault) and to the Lakota and the Dakota and Nakota people for having us here, this is their land, this is their homelands, this was unseated territory that we're sitting on and my responsibility is first and foremost, to help protect that water, but it's to serve the people. I do appreciate the fact that they are concerned for us and want people to go home. But as a medical provider, I can't leave until that last person leaves. That as long as there's one protector standing there, fighting for that water, I'm going to stand here to make sure medically they're okay. Whatever the camp decides to do, I support Standing Rock Tribe.
Discussion with Redbull on November 24 (Thanksgiving) after the action at Turtle Island:
Today was an awesome day. Everything was very peaceful, prayerful. The youth council are actually the ones who planned everything.
This land belongs to our future generations. This land is important to all of us. This is Lakota land, and this is land that was never seated to the government. This is land that belongs to these people. I am a guest here. Even though I am native, I am a guest here by Lakota request. I'm here to stand with them.
Our children need clean water. We need clean water. We deserve clean water. The greed of the companies does not trump the needs of the people.”
Jeanne Dorado, 36 years old and 31 weeks pregnant with her second child, she was named principal of the Sacred Stone Community School, in her professional life she was a research and strategy development for advertising agencies – “what I bring to the table is working across a variety of teams, under deadlines, and being able to take a really awesome concept based off of a need or research, numbers and bring it to life.”
Dorado is originally from Mexico City, but lived in Minneapolis most recently.
She and her one and a half year old daughter arrived at Sacred Stone Camp on October 3rd after visiting Oceti Sckowin Camp a couple times in previous months.
“Being from Central Valley, Mexico, that's my land. I love my land. I love the city. I love the mountains. At the same time, though, it isn't limited to a map or space. It doesn't have lines. Lines, just like money, are all figments of our imagination. I joke around about it, but the border crossed me. I am an American just as much as a Canadian, just as much as a Mexican, just as much as a Guatemalan, just as much as a Peruvian. We all live on this continent of America that's divided into three.
They put out the call. We're all here. There's over 400 tribes represented. It's a coming together that not even the native folks of North America have ever seen.
It's wonderful timing because native folks around the world, we're just done. We've played the game. We let you think that it worked. We got to where we are. Now we're all sick. Now the planet is dying. Now we're running out of natural resources. Now I think it's time to listen.
The call has been put out. All our relations, all of us, we need to come together.