My feet were walking on dirt and ice at this time last year …

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We heard some news, listened to discussions, watched a video that was published by Amy Goodman of Democracy NOW!, and decided that we needed to see for ourselves. It was information that wasn’t making sense to us.

How could any of this be happening in the United States?

Why would a pipeline be approved that had the potential to contaminate an important and vital drinking water source?

Indigenous lands, white land owners, military, oil company tycoons, loop holes in regulations, what was happening?

Why were there mercenaries? Why were there mercenaries shooting people with rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray? Mercenaries with attack dogs, harming unarmed people?

Riot gear, shields, noise making fly overs, flood lights from sun down to sun up?

Grenades, real guns, drones, black op’s?

What the hell.

So as some of our friends had been doing, we sent out the invitation to donate food, clothing, and blankets for the Water Protectors in Sacred Stone /Oceti Sakwin Camps, on the Standing Rock Reservation, Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux is Oceti Sakowin, (Och-et-eeshak-oh-win) meaning Seven Council Fires.

My children, one of their friends, and me as the lone adult took off in the wee hours of the morning, and by this time, this moment last year, we had arrived.

We drove in slowly as the actually site of the camp took our breaths away. For some reason we thought it would be a ring of yurts, tipis, tents, and camp fires, and people walking about. Instead as we crested the hill, before dropping down towards the camps, it was 10’s of thousands of people, and bustling activity in all directions.

We rolled down our windows as we waited in line with hundreds of other cars going into the camp, and the sound of singing, drumming, chanting, and laughter was soul saturating and left us all speechless. The air was scented with wood burning, food cooking, and that cold icy dirt smell so familiar to anyone that lives in snow country.

We were entering another world, another time, and we all had the realization that this experience was going to be way more than anything we could have imagined.

We all felt very white and naive in this moment. While we were all born and raised in the United States, none of us had experienced this side of our country.

My daughter was born in a reservation hospital, we have lived on or near reservations for the past twenty five years, I worked on a ranch manged by my friend who was Eastern Shoshone, was close with his family who always invited us to his relatives Sundance, and yet, driving in to these camps I felt super white and ill equipped.

The moment we parked we were called to action. Unloading our donations to the right places, helping with trash, shoveling doorways, sorting clothing for the elders, wood hauling, medical supply sorting, extra hands were much appreciated.

Everyone had a smile, everyone had a thank you or a blessing, and immediately we felt purpose. Here was a large community of indigenous people, activists from all over the country and world for that matter, military veterans, all nationalities, musicians, actors, families, elderly, all working together, communally, to protect, save, and speak up for clean water.

Clean water.

The feeling of prayer, reverence, respect, humility, and purpose were the overwhelming feelings of these camps.

All for clean water.

We spent most of the late morning and early afternoon helping wherever anyone pulled us. And then we decided to walk around.

On one side of the backwater was the Water Protector Camps, on the other side were police officers in riot gear, mercenaries with real weapons, hummers, shields, flood lights, and everything we were told. And then the site of state troopers sitting on top of Turtle Island, an important burial site, barbwired off, eating a Thanksgiving meal, while the singing, chanting, and drumming were vibrating through the camps. The dichotomy was extreme. And this was in the United States.

A war of sorts, that was so misrepresented on the news, was going on right here, because people wanted to keep the water safe. Literally.

Standing in dirt and ice, freezing our asses off, because North Dakota in the winter is brutal, I felt raw and exposed.

It was a clear example of everything I had been feeling for so long, that what we are being told is happening, is someone else’ idea of what they want us to believe is happening.

Reality, real life counts, and most often I believe this is not what we experience, hear, and see, if we rely on corporate anything for information.

And this was all about water, protecting water.

Our federal government, state police, and hired mercenaries, were supporting and protecting the oil interests of Energy Transfer Partners over the Indigenous peoples right to their water source and land. Please pause on that for a moment.

And by the way, not one drop of that oil will ever be used in the United States, it will all be shipped overseas.

There is still a great deal of work being done to protect the water, and there is a legal tangled ball of yarn that will take years to work through. Everyday I read articles on the Indigenous protesters all around our country that are fighting the fight, fighting for clean water, clean air, and a clean earth. I support them.

My daughter and I were talking the other week that everyday for the past year we think about Standing Rock. Our actions, daily activities, what someone says, how we are all choosing to live and act, our environment, and those that are standing up and speaking out about it.

How we have changed our families consumption of natural resources, choosing to grow more of our food, collect more rain water, support those around us doing the right thing for our planet, and speaking out, with open and raw honesty.

I am thankful for the Indigenous people for standing up for Mother Earth, no matter the season or the conditions.

I am thankful that they allowed me to learn on a new level how powerful a real community is, that has a communal purpose of something so simple as clean water.

Clean water.

We should all care more. My feeling is, if we don’t all start to stand up for our water sources, the wars that will come will not be about oil, or gold, or money, but water, and without clean water, there is nothing.

All of our voices count, a whole awful lot – and if you want to be involved or help out, show your thanks to those out doing the work, please look at IEN (Indigenous Environmental Network)

~ Nancy





  1. As a two-tour veteran of Vietnam, I have been having an awakening on the policies of our government since the middle of my second tour. Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos got way effed up by our politicians. And the current conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and several other places on the globe have AGAIN been way effed up by the policies of the government. I have started calling it: “Government by the government for the government.” They can’t even get it right in the United States, for God’s sake! Loved your previous post. Stay safe. Happy Thanksgiving. Tom and Magic.

    1. Thank you Tom and Magic – you know what is interesting, the Veterans who came to Standing Rock all kept saying the same thing, that out of all of their tours, all of their years in active duty, this was the first time that they actually felt like they were truly protecting ‘the people’ from a corrupt government. That was powerful for me to hear.

      The week after we were there, something like 7,000 Veterans came to Standing Rock to protect the Water Protectors, including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii who I believe is currently in the reserves.

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