Join us on Tuesday, January 10 for a Standing Rock Report Back Circle. See details following this article by Beverly Little Thunder, PJC Board Member and enrolled member of the Standing Rock Lakota Band.

Standing Rock is my home. It is where my people have lived and died for nearly 100 years since we were forced onto reservations. Prior to that, we roamed and lived in the area for more years then can be counted. Our ancestors are buried there and our children continue to be born there. The water from the Missouri river has provided life to our people. Today that water is threatened by the corporate greed of Energy Transfer as they attempt to build the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Since April of 2016, the Lakota Nation has been gathering in an attempt to stop the Black Snake of a pipeline that is proposed to carry crude oil thru the earth and under the river that feeds so much life. A breach in the integrity of this pipeline would pollute the water of the reservation as well as those downstream. In addition, the land it would travel through is treaty land for the Standing Rock Tribe and holds burial sites and historical village sites that should be protected. Dakota Access has thus far ignored this fact and continues to drill and lay pipeline. The tribe opposes this project as did the people of Bismarck North Dakota. However while the people of Bismarck (90% non-Native ) had their concerns listened to, the Standing Rock Tribal voices have been ignored . Meanwhile there have been leaks and failures of pipelines laid by this company all over the country as recently as last week. The cry heard most often in camp is, “you cannot drink oil” and “Mni Wiconi” (Water is Life).

History repeats itself once again; my people are under attack by big corporations concerned with only money. As I stayed in the Oceti Sakowin Camp with some 3000 other water protectors, I was able to witness the dedication both the Native people and their allies displayed in the peaceful, prayerful, and conscious displays of support they held to end to the digging and violation of the earth. These actions were met with armed police and National Guard members using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. During the night, in freezing weather, people praying were sprayed with cold water as well. People there suffered hypothermia, and one young woman had her arm amputated after being hit in the shoulder with one of their weapons. Another lost sight in her eye, and an elder suffered cardiac arrest. This is an unarmed action and organizers stress this daily. Ceremonies are happening on an ongoing basis and even the youth organized a forgiveness march to the police station. Thousands of veterans descended on the camp to join in support of the people there, demanding a stop to the aggressive actions used by the police of Morton County and nearby departments.

Here in Vermont, there have been groups and individuals who have traveled to Standing Rock to take much-needed supplies and help in any way they can. Many Native people have quit jobs and are committed to staying through the winter. The winters there are harsh and much colder than those we have here in New England and the people there have fewer resources. A recent denial of a permit by the Army Corp of Engineers is being seen as a ploy to buy time for the Dakota Access Corp until Trump takes office. He has a huge financial stake in the project and is expected to give Dapl the go ahead and overturn the Army Corp decision. Here in Vermont the bank that holds the states funds, TD Bank, supports DAPL by providing them with loans to see this project through.

What can we here? We can help by spreading the news of what is going on in Standing Rock. We can close any accounts we have with financial institutions that support DAPL. We can host fundraisers to help support the camps holding up for the winter in North Dakota. We can write to our government representatives asking them to voice disapproval for how this is being kept quiet in mainstream news and how the citizens of Standing Rock are being called criminals and protesters for trying to protect not only their sacred sites but the water that give life to us all.

Right now, monetary donations are most needed by individual camps. There is the Kitchen, which provides two meals a day to anyone who needs it; the Medics’ Camp; the Women’s Camp that provides for the women and children in camp; and the Two Spirit Camp that supports LBGTQA individuals needing to connect with others. There is also the legal defense fund. I can direct donations to any of these entities. Contact me at [email protected]

A gathering will be held at The Peace & Justice Center to bring those of us who have been to the camp together to share experiences and continue to raise awareness and support. Anyone is invited to join us on Tuesday, January 10th from 5pm-7pm.

My heart is heavy as I hear of the things happening in North Dakota, I want to be with my people during this time. My experience at Oceti Sakowin was gut wrenching and heart lifting at the same time. For the first time in over 300 years, Native nations from all over have come together to pray and defend our Mother Earth. We are not people from history. We have not been wiped out through government lead and sanctioned genocide and violence. We are still here and we are stronger then this government thinks we are.

Standing Rock Report Back Circle on Tuesday, January 10, 5-7:00 at PJC, 60 Lake St, Burlington

People who have been to Standing Rock to protect the water will be able to share their experiences and address your questions. Priority will be given to First Nation peoples who want to share. Refreshments at 5:00. Discussion 5:30-7:00. at PJC. FREE. Donations of money, checks, and supplies accepted for Two Spirit Camp. for more info email Rachel or visit the facebook event.