Saturday, October 1, 2016
While waiting for my laundry, I stopped in the Prairie Knights Casino gift shop, looking for a t-shirt that said something like “I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux” or #NoDAPL. Unsuccessful, I informed the young black-haired saleswoman that they really needed to sell such t-shirts.
“Not everyone who works here supports the effort,” she replied.
What I initially considered “political correctness,” I came to realize was compassion. They didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
I arrived at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the Big Camp, around 10:00 AM. Located in a large meadow, the Big Camp includes Red Warrior Camp. I was a little leery about staying in the Red Warrior Camp until I read Sitting Bull’s definition of “warrior.”
Three young men greeted me as I guided Pegasus down the dirt road into the main camp entrance. I slid the side window open and looked down at them.
“We’ll have to search your camper,” one said, dark eyes smiling.
“OK,” I replied, recalling the posted prohibition of weapons and alcohol. I had the latter but not the former.
“Just kidding,” he laughed. I laughed too. “Park anywhere,” he said, waving Pegasus through.
After two false starts — the first ending with me driving Pegasus down the side of Facebook Hill past two horse pens, the other with me parked for less than an hour at the edge of the camp near the second exit — I ended up parked in the middle of the camp at the end of Flag Row.
Hundreds of tribal flags stood at attention on both sides of the main drag. I was kitty-corner from the Direct Action Tent where they had daily training meetings, and down a dirt road from the Medic Tent. Four Port-A-Potties, one handicap, stood at the ready.
My neighbors to the right were a Standing Rock Sioux family with two small boys and a teenage girl. They lived nearby but stayed at the camp most nights in a low dome-shaped tent layered with tarps. Gap-toothed eight-year old R. told me I was “old.”
“I can tell by this and this,” he said, pointing to his neck and hands. R. and his little brother G. fed Roan hot dogs and left three small milk bones on the ground outside our door.
My neighbors to the left were a thirty-something couple in a rainbow-painted Blue Bird school bus — Water is Life, painted in neon blue on the port side. Teenage brothers J. and J. introduced themselves.
One brother wanted to move to the “whitest place he can find” and play Xbox all day. The barefoot other brother wanted to return to the “old ways.” Both were bored.
“You’re bringing me down,” I said, sending them home. “If you have such a negative outlook, it’s already over.”
Roan and I stayed at the Big Camp two nights. We walked around the entire camp, crossing the Cannonball River twice to check out the Sacred Stone and Rosebud Sioux camps tucked into the hills.
As always, Roan was a conversation starter. I called him “Dog Who Loves Horses,” and then “Dog Who Was Almost Kicked in the Head by Horses.” We both loved the horses.
I talked to a lot of people, some Native American, some not. Some people were there for the duration. Others, like me, were just passing through. All had their stories, many shared those stories with me. I was there to listen and learn.
To be continued