I’ve received a lot of wonderful feedback since this originally posted. Many have messaged me with words of encouragement, supply donations, and general questions. In response to some of the uncertainty surrounding our decision, I wanted to document a few of the events from last night; in many ways it serves as a microcosm of the entire issue. In an effort to connect with other local Austinites looking to send supplies, I came across a Live Facebook feed of a clash on the front lines at Oceti Sakowin- one of the main camps of Water Protectors [given the nature of their presence, they prefer this term rather than ‘protesters’]. The Water Protectors had taken action to move obstacles blocking the major highway used to access Bismark, the closest city. Protectors and police had negotiated the removal of this blockade nearly a month ago, but it still stands- blocking the ability to send and receive emergency assistance. You can read more about the clash here. While watching the Live Feed, it was apparent that the man publishing it was the only person able to cast. People kept approaching him asking how he was able to get a signal- his response was that he was an unaffiliated source, just your average Protector associated with any media outlets. After about two hours (and 50,000+ viewers) of in and out connections, his feed was jammed and cut out completely. He showed the what he described as a “militarized police force” utilizing rubber bullets, water cannons (or firetruck hoses?), tear gas, concussion grenades, and testing a Long-Range Acoustic Device (used to make sounds loud enough to disorient anyone nearby) on unarmed protectors in temperatures below 20 degrees. The protectors were TRAPPED on the bridge, with no way to retreat unless they trampled each other. Rather than turning on one another in panic, they stood there and Took It. Over 150 protectors were treated for hypothermia and other injuries resulting from rubber bullets and tear gas. The contrast between the police report included in the article and what I witnessed last night is akin to the majority of soundbites from throughout the conflict. The first bit of advice that my mom gave upon hearing some details back in August was “Oh honey, be cautious of your news sources.” She’s right (as usual). BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU GET YOUR NEWS. In traveling to Standing Rock, I very much hope to be like the de facto broadcaster from last night- I have eyes to see, a voice to use, hands to work, and a fierce desire to paint the full picture so that NO ONE will question the horrific history we are all currently writing.
Thanksgiving is coming.
As a kid, Thanksgiving was meh. We always did it big for Christmas, so Turkey day was a day that I spent peeling grapes (Waldorf Salad, das you) and carefully selecting clothes that allowed me to eat right up to the verge of bursting. However….as an adult…woooooey I do love my Thanksgiving! I’ve made a lovely life with my very favorite human, and Thanksgiving has been our Thing. Our wine-soaked kitchen prep is always a diligent homage to those foods that we know will make the very best leftover tacos; shit gets real, I promise. However, as we begin to gear up for this year’s (Gluten-Free?) Glutton Fest, I feel nothing but defeat. Drowning in the waves of disappointing and desperate news, I can’t seem to picture what gratitude looks and feels like in the absence of Work. I am the biggest proponent I know for Self-Care, but this just feels like it crosses into the Self-Indulgence territory. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for that too….but right here and right now, there is work to be done.
Who, what, whenwherewhy
Maybe it’s the irony of Thanksgiving, maybe it’s the election…whatever it is, I feel called to stand by the Water Protectors in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. So this Thanksgiving, I am using the time I have away from school and work to travel to the Sacred Stone camp and lend all the hands I have.
I remember the first time I heard about DAPL. It was sometime in late summer, and Chad told me protests were growing urgent. A very select group of attentive news sources were broadcasting coverage, and I was horrified. At the same time, I took comfort knowing that if I know about it, then surely more important people know about it…and if they know, then this is already solved. I had total trust in the fact that as soon as the public heard about this anomaly, They would put an end to it. Flash forward three months and conditions are not improving. Even worse, there have been widespread social media campaigns and city marches grabbing the attention of the masses when mainstream media passes the bite. People know this is happening, yet actionable support is still just…meh. The mere thought of sitting around a table, eating and drinking in solidarity with the ‘friendship’ forged between pilgrim and indigenous…it simply made me ill.
A big part of this equation is my own feeling of helplessness. To be blunt, the recent election season (with or without Election Day fallout) has wreaked its havoc through every stratum of my personal and professional life; my friends, colleagues, family, and mentors create an intimate circle of influencers that is very purple. I have a deep respect for each and every one of these people and the experiences that paint their political opinions. I am also in a position that many depend on and from which many actively seek comfort in this uncertainty. Founded or unfounded, there is a lot of fear going around. In an effort to quell those fears and anxieties, I’ve repeated time and time again that at the very least, we will see an Awakening of the youth and unprecedented civic participation. Despite very passionate opinions on all sides, civic engagement is a good thing for all camps. Leveraging the resources available to me- time and two hands- this is my active practice of wide eyed engagement.
Wrap it up, Laing
Without belaboring this any further, I feel strongly that this is an obvious invitation to Do. My intention is to witness, to learn, and to fight for what I know is right. I believe in the good things coming but I don’t believe it’s a passive operation. I’m here, and I’m ready to put in the work. Wanna help?