Reflections of Standing Rock Sioux, Sacred Stone and Red Warrior Encampments

By Patti McKee, CCI Member

Flags of many Native Nations snapping in the wind. Multi-colored tents across acres of matted grass. Chants and prayers in native tongues rising to the sky. Women in beribboned skirts. Smoke of wood cooking fires wafting on the breeze. Drumbeats penetrating your soul.

After a long day of driving and seeing the evidence of the construction of the Bakken oil pipeline through Iowa and South Dakota, Brenda Brink, Lisa Lai and I were greeted with the sights and smells described above.

Over Labor Day Weekend, people and tribes from all over the U.S. converged at the Red Warrior encampment on the banks of the Cannonball River. The encampment has the feel of a large powwow, with a main area for speakers and performances, including singing, drumming and dancing. Over 180 tribes and other groups have given their support to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their struggle against the pipeline. The encampment is said to be the largest gathering of Native Americans in recent history.

While we Iowans were there, more tribes came and were introduced. A representative from the Nation of Islam came to lend their support, as well as representatives from a Palestinian rights group. Statements of support were also read from Black Lives Matter.

On Saturday, we took part in a women’s river blessing. We shared about ourselves and our reasons for being at the encampment before walking to the river and blessing it. We came out of the river with the rich, black mud between our toes.

Later in the day came the call to action as Dakota Access, the company building the pipeline, was bulldozing recently discovered Sioux ancestral sites on the ranchland across the road from the reservation. We missed this call to action because we were heading back to our tent at Sacred Stone camp.

Democracy Now has live footage of the confrontation between Native Americans and Dakota Access. From all I heard at first and have read and watched since, I think it was a deliberate act of provocation by Dakota Access. The link provides many sources of stories about the aftermath of the incident.

The rest of that day, a surveillance plane and helicopter flew over the Red Warrior Camp, causing tension in the camp. But events such as horse races and children’s footraces continued.

On Sunday, we marched peacefully with 500 people to the bulldozed site for prayers and a ceremony, all in the Native tongue. It was a time to reflect, to heal and draw strength to continue the fight against the pipeline.

May the courage and commitment of the Native Americans inspire us to continue our fight against the pipeline here in Iowa. May we lend our support to the Standing Rock Sioux in their struggle. The pipeline is not a done deal.


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*Featured Image Instagram User Matao Inuzuka

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