Standing Rock: Sending your best



They’re overloaded, they said, with donated clothes and have already overloaded all the donation boxes in their area. Random stuff is piled everywhere, and someone has to sort it, and for what? Most of it isn’t worth keeping, what with winter coming on. They no longer need school supplies, thanks to your generosity, and they no longer need summer anything.

They have a suspicion you’re cleaning out your closets or attic or garage for things you’d normally throw out. Is that true? I do know I don’t give my best stuff. We took sleeping bags donated by a local college, and one of them had a broken zipper. What can I say? None of them were good for sub-zero temperatures anyway, and that’s the name of the game.

My sister is thinking of starting a One-Hat Campaign on FaceBook, because good winter gear can be expensive, asking people, kids, organizations, churches, whoever, to donate one hat, one pair of gloves or socks or long johns, one scarf, one jacket, one sleeping bag–BUT ALL OF GOOD WINTER QUALITY! Or don’t bother. If you want to do so, you can mail your items directly to: Oceti Sakowin Camp, PO Box 298, Cannon Ball, ND 58528. For their complete list of needs, visit:

Sound elitist? Or arrogant–like, why can’t they be thankful for whatever we send them? I’d say the only reason for it is the frightful winter temperatures the Dakotas get. Most people have an awareness of that, but let me tell you what they can expect for Christmas. The December low is -25 degrees, the high is 54 degrees, the average is 16 degrees. Temperatures for January are a low of -44 degrees, high of 48 degrees, average of 15 degrees. And so on. (Weather from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce.)

I’d also say this is one of the poorest, most isolated places you’ll ever be. You can look online at their
2013-2017 Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for the stats. This plan is required for any tribe that receives government funding. More than 46% of the reservation’s 8000 or so members are below 24 years of age. That’s doable, right? For donations? They exist in “persistent poverty,” meaning more than 20% (much more) have been in poverty for at least thirty years. Many don’t have full plumbing in their homes, have never been in a bank, or seen so many white people in their lives. More than 71% are unemployed, and for those employed, 61.7% still live below the poverty line. I could see where they might be in need of some warm winter gear.

And I haven’t even mentioned the battle they’re waging, like David against Goliath, and they’re waging it for all of us, to protect water and land from the enactment of this kind of irreversible exploitation that stunts our souls. Shouldn’t they be as warm as we are when we stand with them?

Next: Standing Rock: Why am I glad I went?


Standing Rock: “Where do I go to get arrested?”


Vietnam War protest (

“Where do I go to get arrested?” said the Baby Boomer, grinning, come to relive his glory days. He could tell them a few things about being arrested. He’s been beaten by cops, maced, teargassed, threatened, thrown in jail, at an array of protests ranging from the Civil Rights Movement, Republican and Democratic National Conventions in’68, Vietnam War protests in ’67, Redwood Summer in ’90, Iraq War protests in ’02, and more.

Democratic National Convention 1968.

The action of stepping up, ready to give his all, has defined his life and his sense of himself. He’s an elder now, prepared to share what he’s learned, maybe receiving a little recognition, maybe leaving a legacy. It’s great to feel useful again, in this most meaningful way.

Well, not at Standing Rock.

His experience, his brains, his charm, his degrees, his titles, his money, his expectations–none of it matters here. This is not a repeat of those protests, even though the police respond against unarmed people in the same old unnatural, unbelievably harsh ways.


Integration of Central High School by the Little Rock Nine.

Oceti Sakowin is the Camp of the Seven Council Fires and is directed by ceremonial prayer, expressed in sacred ritual by the elders, embedded in the tribe’s ancient connection to primary source through dreams, knowing and conversation.

They may be informed by Native Vietnam vets, outsiders trained and experienced in protest strategies, those educated in the practice and consequences of colonialism, oppression, patriarchy and genocide, as evidenced in the trainings for camp residents, but ultimately actions are determined by the highest most sacred guidance.

This is a peaceful protest. Arrests weren’t part of the plan. There are outlying camps and some individuals who sometimes act independently, but only the Council speaks for the tribe. And now that the tribe knows arrests can occur within the most peaceful of practices, they plan for them, in order to protect people.

They’re allowing us, white and generally untutored in their ways, into this on-going, powerful ceremony, if we’ve come to serve.

Next:  Standing Rock: Camp Etiquette