One year ago today I woke up in my tipi and got ready for the day, clean crisp air redolent of smoke wafted about me, I made my morning ablutions did my hair did my makeup and put on my kick ass biker boots and leather jacket, tied my bandana around my neck and checked on my sleeping King while waiting for Crow to bring me my breakfast while I tended our fire.
For days, rumours of a raid were making their usual rounds and the morning wake up cries of Mni Wiconi and the droning voice of main camp’s morning waker in my ears. Crow and I didn’t have any real plans and were doing the daily round up of the previous days activities and camp happenings. This was something we did every morning as we catalogued a running list of errands and chores we hoped to get to, camp life was not a casual affair for either of us and we had pledged to be as useful as possible during our time at Oceti Sakowin.
Around 10 in the morning after hanging around bumming leftovers from Grumble we were asked to check out Frontline Camp to meet up with someone and get some footage and see what’s what, having heard the buzz about busloads of pigs coming. I scoffed at the idea of a raid having being inured to the idea by so many false alarms.
As we rode out and over the prairie I seen that this time it was true there was a massive swarming of pigs and their evil looking assault vehicles. People started trickling up and we made rounds of the camp that was being set up to stop the building of DAPL. Many familiar faces in the crowd jumped out at me and I swapped information while making sure I had my supply bag with my media gear and everything was charged and ready to go. I could feel it in the air it was electric and adrenaline was buzzing through my body.
Having just been arrested a few days before, I had my 360 on and felt hyper vigilant. Crow and I meandered in the field with our comrades while the pigs formed their usual line up ready to assault or intimidate us into stepping down and leaving. Frontline Camp was very important to us all as it was in the direct path of the pipeline and holding that line was very important in our struggle to stop construction.
The crowd grew bigger in an ebb and flow of bodies, horses and vehicles, cries of Mni Wiconi filled the air and I chain-smoked as we scoped out the action. I had no idea the assault that would soon be launched in a 15 hour reign of terror by the pigs and our desperate fight to hold the camp. We would slowly be pushed back inch by inch fighting with everything we had to stop the inevitable. We would even be fighting our own people in the end.
The advance started with our line of warriors and water protectors. We, only armed with our bodies and our bravery were facing off with a line of pigs armed with assault rifles and all manner of weaponry. A blockade was quickly set up and started on fire and just as quickly dismantled and the fire put out in a series of decisions made by fearful people and mysterious elders that ultimately lost us Frontline Camp and that was when the true horror of that day was unleashed.
I moved through the crowd with my Camp family advancing as far as I dared to take pictures and fight back, sirens blaring into my ears as I checked to make sure I had my earplugs and the robotic voice of the police droned in my ears “Move back, we will not harm you, you are breaking the law, move back and no one will be harmed.” To the left of me there were DAPL employees and their equipment on the embankment ready to move, to my right, was the road and a moderate crowd, bodies and horses mingling, to the front the pigs this is when, they started advancing on us.
I could feel them coming, rolling up on us relentlessly under the clear sky. Quickly, many Water Protectors moved to the left and made it on to the worksite running at the workers and the pigs protecting them trying to stop them with our bodies. I seen one arrest made and made it to the worksite to snap some pictures and do recon. The sound cannon was blaring in my ears. I put my earplugs in, waiting to see what would happen next, my hands busy trying to make sure my updates went through to Facebook. It would take sometimes up to 5 minutes to get one post out and I was constantly moving to find places where the reception was strong enough to post and stand still long enough to make sure it was uploaded before moving on.
The war cries of our people were impossible to resist and I joined in with my fist raised as I took pictures and made sure my Camp family was around and safe and that there was an escape route for me at all times. Crow and our comrades ranged the perimeters and we watched them come at us, relentless as the tide and just as deadly. I made it all the way to the front of the crowd. There was no one between me and the tanks. Just a few feet away, as I documented the illegal acts on our people, they almost ran an elder over in front of me and many tried to snatch me as they seen me recording them. I had to de-arrest myself and others. My breath was coming harsh and jagged as I stood their resting as they pushed through the crowd with their bodies and assault vehicles.
After I got my wind back I met with the crew and we went off to the right of the 1806 to see what the action was on that side, I was sneaking a smoke under my mask and guzzling water when a man I was standing a few feet away from confronting the pigs was tazed and went down right in front of me. Screaming at the pigs in rage and trying to document what was happening at the same time, many were helping him up and as he staggered to his feet, he repeated, “I’m ok, I’m ok.” I turned to find Crow at my back as always and said “Holy shit did you fucking see that? Those fucking pigs just tazed that guy”. He casually reached out and pulled me back my collar and I narrowly avoided being taken myself stumbling into the crowd we put some distance between us and the pigs and tried to take a breather.
Shots fired! I crouched to the ground and tried to see which direction it came from and in a mass of arms and legs I could hear my breath harsh in my throat and I laughed shouting “Are you fucking serious your going to actually shoot us now too?” This is the time where Red Fawn Fallis was arrested for allegedly shooting a gun during a scuffle and arrest, she remains in jail to this day. Making sure I was sticking close to the crew I tried to stay in place and get footage and post without getting harmed myself, in a rush a line of pigs with nightsticks and assault rifles rushed us and I felt an impact in my chest a bean bag had exploded right on the ground in front of me peppering my chest gagging for air, I turned and ran with my chest on fire and spots in front of my eyes from not being able to breath I felt an impact in the back of my leg and my knee buckled. Forcing myself to keep going, I was relieved when Crow grabbed me and hurried me along. When we got far enough, he checked me over to make sure I wasn’t bleeding and we took a moment for a quick kiss in relief when I realized I would have nasty bruises but wasn’t seriously injured. There were over 300 police advancing shooting people off of horses chaos all around us and I was stunned by the violence being perpetrated.
We fell back and put our eyes on the hills, smoking and shaking from adrenaline, we took turns shouting at the pigs and checking out the hills, counting 8 snipers laying in wait with their guns trained on the crowd. We were now at the actual camp and bulldozers were moving in razing everything in site in front of our eyes. Crouched on a horse trailer, I watched everyone around me including myself screaming in rage and pain as we watched the destruction of our camp in front of our eyes. I could feel my tears pushing the back of my eyelids as I shot as much footage as I could, switching out media cards and plugging everything in to keep it charged.
Again and again they charged us and we fought to slow them down, we used our bodies and our actions to try and slow them down, watching them pluck people off casually beat them and than hand them off for arrest as they rolled up on us. I will never forget the sight and sounds of so many Strong Hearts to the front putting their freedom and body on the line for clean water, for the future, for our children. It was our friend Dan Namakins birthday and he was in his regalia looking resplendent holding his ground, we sang happy birthday to him as he was swallowed by a sea of pigs a sight I will never forget for the rest of my days.
I jumped from the horse trailer into the back of a truck and scrambled down while people started bringing in tipi poles. Putting my cameras away I helped haul them out into the road, a young warrior was preparing himself for lock down and I leaned into the truck shouting words of love and giving him a quick hug and taking a picture before I had to run. My friend Dan, standing in his regalia singing in the background, I grabbed a couple shots and paused to upload as the smoke and tear gas thickened around us. I grabbed a bottle of water and soaked my mask.
Crow picked me up and threw me into the back of a truck and we watched as they kept advancing, terrorists committing acts of terror, people screaming in pain, cries for the medics in the air and fear all around. The war whoops in the air were giving me energy. I quickly ate a tanka bar and shared water with Crow, my chest, and leg aching. We heard their was a DAPL worker who was taking shots at people and that there was a fire so we decided to head out and see what was happening. We ran into some comrades who let us know our King was doing well and everything was ok at our base camp. We were asked to take a break and both of us knew there was no way our spirits and sense of responsibility could let us leave. After quick hugs and promises to look after our baby, we separated from our comrades and made our way down the highway to see if the rumours were true.
HOLY FUCK it was true, we rolled up on a burning truck laughing in exhilaration letting our war cries flow. We weren’t laughing because a DAPL employee shot an AR15 at several water protectors and they chased him into the water disarming him we were laughing because somehow his truck had caught itself on fire. We were happy no one on our side was shot dead and happy he got justice for his actions, later we would learn many things about this “worker” and the shooting.
At this point it all becomes a jumble of events, buffalo rounded up and almost turned the tide for us until the pig chopper scattered them, working frantically to get more wood to keep the truck fire burning, escalating tensions between us and the afraid prayer warriors who would ultimately betray us and break our hearts, roadside fried bread, roadside collapse looking at the sky trying to process, running with Crow, petting horses, listening to peoples stories, laughing with my Camp family, Grumble food delivery, perimeter checks and the march of the pigs that it seemed we could not stop, until we did.
Warriors have taken the bridge, exhilaration! In a flurry of talk leading up into dusk a group of warriors decided to make a last stand gathering up support of other water protectors and supplies. If we let them take the bridge we would be tactically lost. After the camp was bulldozed, the bridge was the last stand we could make and cries of hold the bridge resounded and in a frenzy of action, vehicles and many people, a blockade was rapidly built and set ablaze. Chanting Black Snake Killa together there was a feeling of triumph in the air, despite the injuries and arrests we had suffered that day we were victorious and there was a celebratory feeling amongst most of us we could do this, we could WIN!
Now that we dug in, we prepared for a long night, but all throughout that day, when Warriors took real action there was always a small crowd who stood against it and condemned the actions. Insisted that we stay as witnesses and take no action, berated those who did and actively worked against their own people to aid and abet the terrorist pigs in the battle to stop DAPL, tension between the two factions were rising and would come soon to a head.
So many layers of animosity because of colonization and the refusal to remember our ancestors until very recent history were always armed. The infiltration of organized religion and residential / boarding schools further degrading the spirits of our people until the point where any kind of resistance armed or otherwise was seen as something scary and to be subdued or we would all be punished. Unfounded fears and those without faith made it their business to undermine those of us who seen clearly that a diversity of tactics was needed to win the day.
As we coordinated keeping the fires burning others coordinated against us, in the end the pigs sacrificed two of their own militarized vehicles to push us back and take the bridge and the river. Around 2 in the morning on the 28th of October Crow and I took our leave of the blockade to go and sleep and rest for what we had thought would be a busy day holding the bridge, when we woke we were excited to head back to the bridge and bring firewood and this is when we heard rumblings that our blockade was being dismantled and there was many gathering at the bridge.
Hurriedly getting our bags packed, making sure we ate and our baby King was settled in with his caregivers, we got ready and we ran up the hill to the bridge. As we approached we heard a melee, a group acting on the orders of mysterious elders and their own false sense of authority were fear mongering and vilifying everyone who upheld our sacred duty and responsibility to land and water by taking direct action and putting our bodies and freedom in jeopardy. Plunging into the crowd I was seething with anger and frustration, we were called divisive, accused of being infiltrators, and than the unthinkable happened. Small skirmishes broke out amongst us all many of us shouting to try and make ourselves heard and failing, everything was falling apart around us and there was nothing we could do.
Our own people formed a riot line against us after a heated exchange just like the pigs had been doing for months and months. They actually had the temerity to treat us exactly the same way the pigs did, they made the conscious choice to harm their own people using spiritual abuse in the form a chanupa physically hitting people who stood in the way and didn’t fall back. There are no words for the betrayal we suffered and the utter shock of being mishandled in such a manner, fear I could understand but to use that fear as a weapon was incomprehensible to many of us.
That bridge was our symbol to the world that we would not back down, that we would do anything and everything to hold that bridge and fight back. I could feel the shock to my system an anger that went generations deep, rage not only at losing our position but also at the colonizers for causing this fear to harm us all, a bomb went off in 1492 that has been resonating in all our lives ever since. The white man really did a bang up job
As I look back on the memories of moments explode in my minds eye, the sound of harsh breathing, the feeling of a baton striking me in upper thigh, high pitched ear drum exploding LRAD constant, the ground rushing up to meet me as I stumbled, triumph on my comrades faces as they told us their escapades, Crows lips on mine, my heart aches for all that could have been and more. Fear is an infection, a colonial tool used to keep us enslaved and docile, fear is not something to be ashamed of, clinging to it and using it against your own people is. I often wonder how much more we could have accomplished at Standing Rock if people had not let their fear rule them, how far could we have taken it, dare I say we may have even have stopped DAPL in its tracks if we didn’t have the faint hearted bullying us all.
The ultimate life lesson I walked away with is never let others fear rule you, allow yourself to grieve your lost moments, and than get back out there and kick some more ass, because if we don’t put it all on the line for our grandchildren’s grandchildren than who will? We cannot afford to put the tactics of one group over another and we must learn to embrace the tactics we don’t necessarily agree with, after all we have no planet b and we must be good ancestors or humans by our own stupidity and timidity will be extinct soon. I will not forgive those who walked against us because it is not in the nature of this heart of mine, I will not make pretty the spiritual abuse we suffered and I refuse to let the passage of time dull the pain endured, I will hold these moments close and teach my children better. My immediate descendants will behave better, they will be tolerant of all avenues of achieving our goals in stopping resource extraction on our lands, they will be supportive of their Warrior Sisters and Brothers and they will learn from the mistakes we all made at Standing Rock.
So much has happened in a year and as I look up at the clear fall sky I can feel my hearts painful tattoo beating in my chest, we now live in Vancouver, Crow in the hospital with traumatic brain injury, my family thrown into turmoil, our lives changed forever and I will never forget the feeling of his frantic hands checking me to make sure I wasn’t badly injured and the strength in his arms as he crushed me too him, and a small part of me wants to live in that moment forever. Two warriors hung suspended in time in the chaos of that day, a Queen and her Crow through and through.
Original Video of a call out to the world in the late evening October 27th 2016 https://www.facebook.com/queen.sacheen/videos/10157798716355637/
Edited Version by Franklin Lopez https://www.facebook.com/RedWarriorCamp/videos/1805982392987046/