The Water Protectors of Standing Rock

A Mosaic of Voices from the Movement

by L.M. Browning  •  Photography by Elizabeth Hoover

Featured in the Spring 2017 Issue | Print Edition »Visit The Wayfarer Store

Our definition of a “wayfarer” is a wanderer whose ability to re-imagine the possible
provides the compass bearings for those on their way. A wayfarer can be a writer, artist, musician,
activist, volunteer—anyone who is charting the way for change. Each issue we feature a profile
of a wayfarer and highlight what they are doing to be an agent of change in the world.
For the first time in the history of our publication, we have chosen to feature a movement as our wayfarer.

Sadie Red Wing

(Spirit Lake Nation)

Age: 26

Occupation
Graphic Designer

When were you at standing rock?

I first went to Standing Rock August 11th, 2016. I have made over 15 trips to the camps in Standing Rock.
My latest trip ended on December 8th, 2016.

What made you go to Standing Rock?

On August 10th, 2016, there was a call to action for people to head to Cannon Ball, North Dakota to block the entry points of the Dakota Access Pipeline equipment. Without a question, I headed up to Cannon Ball with donations and participated in the prayers along Highway 1806. The motivation of me going to Cannon Ball came from my heart and home. My family and I live along the Missouri River. Any tampering to the water effects my home. I felt it was my duty to join the fight in protecting water for the sake of my families’ lives, my life, and the future generation’s life. Water is important to me and my culture—I would feel guilty NOT protecting our water.

What was your impression of what’s taking place on the ground?

In the earlier times of action, my first impressions were very mixed. I was determined to be on site, but I was also shocked to see what the Dakota Access Pipeline construction was doing to our lands. It was a beautiful feeling to be around prayer along Highway 1806. I was impressed that majority of the action was being done by my generation (20-30 of age). My personal friends did a great job leading women and children to safe areas and conducting prayer. I could not be any happier to be involved in the situation, but I also was very upset of the forceful confrontation brought onto the protectors. Nobody likes to see their peers harmed in anyway. I know I did not like seeing my friends beat, bloodied, maced, and jailed by the DAPL security just for standing in prayer. It was an extremely emotional time.

What is the mindset of the protectors?

I cannot speak for all water protectors, but I believe the mindset of those fighting against the pipeline is protection. We want clean water for our future generations. We want our treaties honored. We are fighting to protect ourselves as Native Americans. The fight against the pipeline has been a great time to revive cultural traditions that have not been practiced frequently in the past—I found that very beautiful. On the downside, the fight has shown how subordinate we (Native Americans) are in the world. It has shown how lifeless we are in the media, how little our human rights are taken into consideration, and how our culture is still mocked by others who do not care to understand our way of life.

What is a positive memory you will keep from within the chaos of the experience?

I have multiple positive memories from the experience. I think what makes me smile the most is the brothership shown amongst my peers at camp. I enjoyed sitting in a tipi, or around a fire, listening to stories that made us all laugh. During the days of celebration, people in the camps commemorated in their traditional ways. It was amazing to hear on one side of camp playing hand games, while the other side of camp was singing round dance and ceremonial songs. People war hooped and trilled until the early hours in the morning under the bright stars. The positive energy was something I’ll never forget. I even developed a closer relationship with a friend I met a few years back. All these memories make me want to continue to go back to Standing Rock.

Glenna (Eagle) Yellow Fat

(I am a Hunkapa Lakota from Standing Rock.
I was born and raised in Fort Yates North Dakota.)

Age: I hit my 42nd summer July 2016.

Occupation
I am the wife of Standing Rock Tribal Councilman
Dana Yellow Fat. Together we have 6 children,
3 daughters and 3 sons. We, as a family, have been fighting against the Dakota Access Pipe Line since before
the movement went nationwide.

When were you at Standing Rock?

On April 1, 2016 a prayer ride took place. The ride started in front of the Standing Rock Tribal Administration building in Fort Yates and ended in Cannonball, nd. That day was when Sacred Stone Camp was started. There were less than 75 people that took part in that ride. Even fewer that set up a tent or tipi at the first camp. We continued to try to get the word out there about this pipeline and what would happen. While there was a Bismarck news station that documented the movement that day. It was like no one really paid attention. I am proud to say my husband and 3 of our children participated, 1 of our sons led the ride for the first 15 miles, carrying the family eagle feather staff.

What made you go to Standing Rock?

The proposed crossing is right in our backyard. We became more aware of it after my husband was voted onto the council in October 2015. That is when I first started posting on Facebook against DAPL.
What was your impression of what’s
taking place on the ground?

I am amazed by how big this ‘movement’ has grown since we did the ride. Beyond thankful for those that answered to call for help and pushed this national. Back in August when this first blew up and we got the call that we were needed at the frontline, none of us knew what to expect. We were running around gathering things that we might need out there. We knew there were police, but we didn’t know how they were going treat everyone. So, one of the main things we grabbed were scarves to cover our noses and mouths, who has respirators or masks on hand on a daily basis if you don’t need them? We were already worried back then about them using tear gas and mace against us. Thankfully that didn’t take place back then. Our 3 oldest children were going to go with us and they were kind of freaking out because they immediately thought back to the fight against the kxl Pipeline. They knew how things got back then by watching news and posts from friends that were there. To say they were scared is an understatement. We started posting on Facebook for people to meet us out there. There wasn’t much we could say as we weren’t given much information ourselves.

What is the mindset of the protectors?

Since then so much has taken place, thousands have physically shown up to show support, and things have escalated numerous times. One thing the Pro-dapl people can’t seem to understand: This isn’t just about us, Standing Rock, it’s about the millions that depend on this body of water for life. This isn’t about any one race, it’s about the Human Race and its future. That is why we are all fighting so hard against this. I want my children and grandchildren to have a future. When the pipeline breaks, there goes the future of agriculture, wild game, fish, all fauna, cattle, etc… How are we supposed to continue to live without all of that? And that is why, we will continue to fight against the corporations and government if that is what we have to do.

What is a positive memory you will keep from within the chaos of the experience?

One of the biggest positives of this whole movement has been the coming together of all the Native Nations. Historical enemies have gathered under One Purpose to fight against a common enemy! In addition to that the Seven Council Fires was convened, that hasn’t been done since 1876! To be able to bear witness to that is indescribable. To be a part of history in the making every single day has been amazing. All the indigenous nations that have banded together has brought about so many feelings I have no words to describe them.

 

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