Wednesday, November 30, 2016.
With the unexpected availability of a hotel room last night, Lyssa and I catch a much-needed break — both from the blizzard and from each other.
Lyssa and I are good friends, and fellow travelers when it comes to our shared passion for sustainable food, clean water and climate justice. But sure, after living and working together 24-7 for four days straight, some space is needed. I plug away on my computer, working late and catching up on a chunk of my backlog. Lyssa “paces” as she calls it, prowling the casino and enjoying the wild, weird, colorful images decorating the hundreds of slot machines.
We sleep in. The blizzard continues to blow hard, but the snow’s movement is all horizontal. This three-day display of Nature’s raw power is winding down.
We drive back to camp and run into Myron Dewey, who has gained quite an online following for his work documenting the pipeline battle from the air. We follow Myron’s truck through the “Road Closed” barrier, beyond the camp entrance. We soon come to a bridge where a handful of water protectors are gathering.
Myron tells us he’s seen Dakota Access transporting the huge rig designed to bore under the Missouri River. Folks from the Oceti Sakowin camp are preparing a response, but I can’t find anyone who knows the details.
Our activity on the bridge is met by an influx of law enforcement vehicles. A DAPL representative talks with us over a loud speaker. He sounds pleasant, friendly even.
“We really don’t want to arrest anybody, but please move to the south side of the bridge folks, or we’ll have to have you arrested.”
To one of the water protectors who slipped and fell: “Are you ok? Do you need any help?”
To the uniformed veterans in the group: “I see we’ve got some veterans here today. I really want to thank you for your service to our country.”
The disembodied voice presents the kind, fatherly face masking oppression. DAPL has found an excellent front man. But no one is fooled. Behind the voice is corporate and police power prepared to defend Big Oil’s interests with water canons, long range acoustic devices (LRADs), pepper spray and tear gas.
Lyssa and I are marginally prepared for these possibilities, although I wonder if our ear plugs will provide enough protection against an LRAD. I joke that we could have responded in kind if I’d brought my accordion, an LRAD in its own right.
The action on the bridge today is mostly posturing. But it is important, reminding DAPL and the world that we are present, unafraid and not going away. For me, the most powerful moment came as one Native leader leaves the bridge to stand by the water. He lifts his hands in prayer and sings in a voice that, though not amplified, carries nearly as well as the DAPL rep on the loud speaker.
Indeed, one does not have to spend much time at Oceti Sakowin before it becomes clear that, more than anything, this is a spiritual place. Every morning before sunrise, prayers and singing can be heard clearly, broadcast from an open tent by the sacred fire. The height of morning prayer is a water ceremony at the bank of the Cannonball River.
It is hard to imagine anyone not being moved and inspired by these acts of humility and reverence.