November 5th, 2016
Today we ate breakfast and headed to back to the Front Line to deliver the shields. As we cross over the bridge into the Rosebud camp we are immediately told there is a direct action today. Not sure what it is, but hoping we will hear more. We head on to the Front Line. We’ve got the shields that Sam made, and the few hardback books that were waterlogged from the school. We know the layout of the camps quite well now. We trek past Rosebud, Sacred Stone, and simply make our way along Canonball River with the teepees as our end point in the distance.
When we arrive there I’m immediately directed to a drop-off point for the shields – there are piles of them already. When we made the shields yesterday the idea for creating them came from someone at the camp – word of mouth travels fast. Everyone took their storage bin lids and quickly devised handles and sent them on to the Front Line. When we visited the Front Line yesterday I’m pretty sure there were only two teepees. Now there are four. There is also milk of magnesia (for tear gas) and various other piles of supplies that have appeared in the last 24 hours.
We see a friend there that we know and we ask about the direct action – he states that he has no idea. As he should. Who are we anyway? We could be infiltrators who are dropping off shields in the hopes of gaining information. We thank them for all that they are doing and leave.
Across Canonball River the police/military presence has increased. Yesterday there were approximately 5 vehicles (Humvees). Today just along this area of the Front Line I spot easily twenty or more. Today the law enforcement officers are standing outside of the vehicles staring at everyone with binoculars. They have two police boats riding up and down the river.
Last night we of course had helicopters circling all night. Hard sleeping conditions. Today, for the first time since I arrived, we have helicopters circling all day too. They circle low and loud as always.
We make our way back through the Sacred Stone camp, Rosebud, and across the bridge back to Oceti Sakowin Camp. As we make our way back we are told that the direct action today is at the bridge. We fill our water bottles and head there. It’s crazy hot by now. The nights are freezing, the days are burning up typically.
Sam and I view this at the bridge.
The bridge is where the cars and tires were burned in an effort to stop the digging. Many others are already heading to the bridge today. We make our way there and across from it the road is lined with law enforcement. Throughout our time there the law enforcement rotates in and out, easily 40 to 50 vehicles at a time. The word of mouth “direct action” clearly made traction fast in the camp. The law enforcement had maneuvered into the fields on either side of the road. When we left the bridge finally there were easily 200 or so people waiting and standing in the road. Tribal leaders came out on horseback and directed everyone to stay back, and eventually asked us to head back to camp. I have no idea what the direct action was, or if it occurred, or if perhaps it is occurring tonight. But it was clear to me that many are ready for action; action I am told must remain peaceful. It is strange to be standing in a country where we proclaim to be a “democracy”, and where various law enforcement officials bear down, ready to take brutal action on peaceful people. Watching 200 people on one side of the bridge, watching over 50 law enforcement vehicles on the other side of the bridge, separated by burned vehicles – is something – well it’s something I think I’m still trying to wrap my head around. As I write this blog at the casino tonight I talk to a young man from Los Angeles. He says we are at a crossroads – we want to protect the water – we are protectors – but we are at a point where we protect or we head down the wrong path (more or less, not remaining peaceful) – it is hard to know what will happen. He says he is tired and he is ready to go home. He has been here two months. I am told many at the camp plan never to leave – they will see this through to the end.
When we left the bridge today and headed back to camp we see the Oglala Sioux Tribe from Pine Ridge coming into the camp. It had to be hundreds of people and easily twenty to thirty vehicles plus horses. Tribes show up continually. If you zoom in on the picture you can see them walking in.
Also, listen to the video as you hear the crowd welcoming them into the camp.
We followed behind them and headed back to camp, back to the school which was recently relocated near our own camp by the river. Sam, my son, was designated the new coordinator for organizing materials yesterday so he headed there to work and I eventually made my way there as well. As a teacher, I, of course enter the school tent with ideas for organizing, planning classroom activities, and more. But it’s not my classroom. I will be here only until Wednesday. I help them organize crayons, paper, craft materials, books, games and more. It’s a nice large tent. I, of course, wish they had more. We need a building to be donated to this camp for the children to attend in a space that is warm, spacious and full of light.
The classroom has two teachers. Students are all ages. They have a large field to play in and a river close by. As I’m organizing children trail in and out asking where the teachers are – they are ready to get back to class – they clearly miss their teachers. Monday class will resume. I’m excited to stop by and offer my help. And Sam, well Sam, he has worked hard every day he has been here – I wish he would blog, so you could view this through his eyes, because he loves these people, he loves this place, and he wants to learn. He so desperately wants to learn – and give back however it might help.
Signing off on this Saturday evening. We’re pretty tired today. It’s incredibly hard to get any word out about what is going on. There is almost no internet connection at the camp. Sometimes I stand on FB Hill holding my phone up high because I’m told it will get a better signal. It rarely works. Tonight we drove up the road to the casino and ate here in hopes of finding a plug to charge our phones, computers, and hopefully write some posts for our various blogs. I’ve been booted out of the one room we found that had a plug behind a fridge. Now we’re seated on the floor next to a soda machine and I yanked the duct tape off the extra plug to use it. All plugs have been covered with plastic covers – no plugs can be used. Yet campers are parked in various locations on the floor around the casino trying to type furiously and send out the word. And all the time wondering where this will all end and if ultimately, if our small contribution even makes a difference.