Published January 9, 2017
It’s a dark time in camp…literally. It is cold and the sun doesn’t shine very often. The snow melts a little, only to refreeze into sheets of black and white ice that covers every surface. As you walk through camp, the snow and ice crunch under your feet, and your eyes and nostrils begin to freeze. It’s the wind, however, that really gets to you. It blows and bellows so powerfully that you can actually feel the sound down deep in your core. Here, the snow comes at you horizontally like tiny, frozen razor blades that rub your skin raw.
The folks left in camp, about 500, are defiant and strong. These are the tough ones…the ones who have been sharpened by years on the front line. Many of them (like my 68- year-old mother-in-law who lives in a ger, round tent covered with skins, in the Kul Wicasa camp) are elders who have seen so many broken promises from federal and IRA governments, that they are determined to stay and fight for the water, the land, the wildlife, and the treaties. They are determined to stand against the continued cultural, environmental, and physical genocide of Indigenous peoples.
Soon, due to the floodplain, everyone will have to leave the current location of the All Nations and Rosebud camps. (The Sacred Stone Camp will be fine where they are.) So the question is…where do we go? Abandoning camp is out of the question. Even the Standing Rock tribal government has admitted that the Army Corp isn’t holding up their end of the agreement to demand a full Environmental Impact Statement…the Corps is stalling and hoping we will all just “go away” once Trump takes office, and then they can claim that it is all the administration’s fault. No. We can’t leave and we can’t lose sight of the big picture.
We must remain hopeful. I don’t necessarily know how the victory will come or what form it will take, but I believe that we will be victorious. It is more important than ever that we stand with Standing Rock, the Two Rivers Camp, the Unis’tot’en Camp, and so many others who are standing against the Dakota Access pipeline, the Sabal Trail pipeline, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, the Trans Pecos Pipeline, the Mauana Kea Telescope, Elbridge lines 3 & 5, Pilgrim Pipeline, the Copper One Rivière Doré mine, and the Pacific Northwest Terminal Natural Gas plant, and so many other environmentally destructive pieces of unnecessary infrastructure that threaten Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities all over the world.
We have to start somewhere. Complete divestment from fossil fuels will take decades, but we have to begin now. Complacency and ignorance isn’t the answer. Turning a blind eye isn’t an option anymore. We have to give our children a choice. Give them a life, an economy, a planet and a future of which they can be proud.
Stand with us and resist with us.
Linda Black Elk (Catawba Nation) is an ethnobotanist, ecologist, writer and activist. She currently lectures at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Black Elk assists in the leadership of the Medic and Healer Council that serves all Standing Rock camps.