SRPMIC Leaders Visit Sacred Camp During Historic Battle
OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP, N.D. – Peaceful water protectors stand outside their teepees, tents and longhouses along the Cannonball River in southern North Dakota. The autumn morning mist makes the smoke from campfires visible. Water protectors face east to greet the sun; some stand in the river offering their prayers. The river flows into the nearby Missouri River. All is silent and peaceful, except for the signs and flags that sway quietly in the prairie wind.
One sign reads, “Mni Wiconi, Water is life.”
This is just a typical morning at the Oceti Sakowin Camp (Seven Council Fires).
Members of more than 300 tribes, including the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, are standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline passing through sacred sites and crossing under the Missouri River three times. If the oil pipeline bursts, it could potentially contaminate the tribe’s only water source. Since April, thousands have stood with Standing Rock, and numbers continue to grow as winter approaches.
On October 1, a SRPMIC delegation with Administration staff and Community members traveled to the Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota to present the Community flag, $25,000 and a U-Haul truck full of firewood and donated items on behalf of the Community.
SRPMIC delegation included President Delbert Ray, Sr. and Council Members Michael Dallas, Sr., Archie Kashoya and Ricardo Leonard. The SRPMIC staff included Assistant Community Manager Lena Jackson-Eckert, Intergovernmental Relations Project Manager Angela Willeford and Assistant Public Works Director Dawn Sinoqui. The U-Haul truck drivers and SRPMIC Public Works employees Rudy Prieto and Frank Villa and other Community members were also present.
Upon walking through the main camp entrance, SRPMIC proudly held its flag and walked down the dirt road, lined with flags from tribal nations from across the world, with onlookers cheering. They walked to the sound of a gourd rattle, held by Leonard, who sang a traditional O’odham song.
“Thank you for being here. Having the continued support means a lot, not just to Standing Rock, but to everyone who has been a part of this. This is spiritual. I can feel it. When you guys were walking in, a bald eagle flew over, so we know that the Creator is watching over us and is taking care of us,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II upon the arrival of the SRPMIC contingent.
“We are here to support this effort in that as Native nations, we are all victims. I shared with Chairman Archambault that as a judge for 24 years, I was very disappointed in the decision that the court made …. We fight money with money. We wanted to come and participate, and make our contribution to keep this fight going. We are all one. We thank you, thank you for your prayers and for using your resources to be with us here,” President Ray said.
Afterward, the Community representatives were welcomed with an honor song and water protectors from across the world lined up to shake their hands.
Shortly before SRPMIC’s visit to the camp, Prieto presented the eagle feather that was left with him and Villa from the send-off rally at the Community’s tribal campus to Standing Rock Sioux District Representative James D. Dunn. This presentation was done at the Standing Rock Administration complex in Fort Yates, N.D., about a 20-minute drive south of the campsite.
“Water is really a global issue. I’m very appreciative that you can come and offer your support and contributions, and it’s a big sacrifice that you guys are making. In our culture we hold that sacrifice with high regard. We hold it dear to us,” said Dunn.
Water protectors marked a map at the campsite to show from where they had traveled: Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, New Zealand, Wales, Switzerland, Canada, Hawaii, Pakistan and almost every state in the U.S., including Arizona.
A typical day at the camp is spent listening to tribal chiefs, council members, presidents and other leaders within Indian Country. At the time the SRPMIC was there, speakers included Lakota Sioux Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th-generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. This pipe has been in his family for 18 generations. Looking Horse spoke about the importance of water and the protection of Mother Earth.
Numerous other tribes trailed in after the SRPMIC arrived. All welcomed them into the camp and continued with the handshakes and greetings.
The drumbeats at the camp could be heard from afar. The voices of the water protectors singing were just as loud and proud, with chants of “Water is life,” “We are Mother Earth’s protectors, we must protect her, She is our provider,” heard loud and clear from across camp. Everyone held hands, prayed and danced in unison. This is just a glimpse of what happens here.
The area is also home to other camps, such as the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, the Red Warrior Camp, the Rosebud Camp, the Two Spirit Camp, the Frontline Camp and others, which are usually specified into tribes from across the world. Although camps have different names, they all came together as one in protesting against the oil pipeline. Thousands of people are at the camps daily, and hundreds stay for weeks.
“It’s been a good positive experience. It’s overwhelming what’s happening. There are nations from all over the world that are coming,” said Archambault. “It’s spiritual, you know; when you come here, you feel good. We’re working on trying to make it a better experience for everybody. It’s been a wonderful thing, and I really appreciate all of the support that everyone is giving. I appreciate all the donations and I can’t thank everybody enough.”
Winter is coming. At night, temperatures drop to 40 degrees and will move below freezing as the colder months come. The camp will plan accordingly for their water protectors. A possible move and building of various structures has been proposed among the leadership at the Oceti Sakowin.
Check future issues of Au-Authm Action News for continued coverage of this historic visit.Click here to view photo gallery.