Season Two, Episode 010 – Force Begets Resistance

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CHILI YAZZIE: Today, what I understand of Standing Rock is that the direction of the movement there is being determined by the elders, by the medicine people. And that makes the effort so real, so sincere. Without the superficiality of an organized group coming in to save the day. Because of that spirit, that sincerity translates into these success, if you will, of Standing Rock. As I say here, Standing Rock represents in some ways a last stand. This is the time that it has to happen. This is the time that we turn back that tide of oppression, of annihilation, of exploitation. And it takes all of us to make it happen.

HIGH HAT: Well, we’re standing up here on what they call Facebook Hill above the North camp and the sunset’s coming with an explosion of life. Reds, greens, blues, everything. It’s just the world saying, good morning. That it’s pleased with us. This is what we’re fighting for. This is so our children and our grandchildren and their children and grandchildren can have this. It’s so wonderful to see everybody here. 

NATALIE STITES: My name is Natalie Stites and I am an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Tribe. I am Lakota and Kota. And I am a mother here with my child at the Standing Rock encampment resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Time and space are a little different here at the camp. It takes a long time to get going in the morning. Sometimes even when you wake up before the sun rises, which I usually end up having to do. But I think there’s a really strong sense of community and really conscious conversations are going on mostly at all times.

There’s a huge contrast between what story is being put out there in terms of the nature of our protest. And the nature of the confrontations with the police and DAPL. This camp was started in prayer and it continues in prayer. And though not everyone has answered the call necessarily in prayer. I think they respect that that’s the basis for Lakota Dakota Nakota resistance to this pipeline. It’s rooted in prayer in our spiritual beliefs that Mother Earth is our relative and we are tasked with being her caretaker.

HIGH HAT: What would we do without our mother? This is our mother. We’re standing on our mother. She’s taught us everything we know. She’s given us everything we needed. I feel that these people across the bridge, they’re getting into bad medicine. They’re digging too deep. All it is, is another way for them to get rich, but nobody understands it. No one understands what they’re doing and what they’re doing to us. I just wish things were different. I wish somebody would slap us all and say, good morning. Wake up, learn. 

CHAS DEWETT: Yeah, Chas Dewett member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. We’re in the middle of the Peacemaker Yurt in the middle of (name) Camp with the Yankton Camp and at Oceti Sakowin Camp. I was you taught by my grandmother to work for the people and do things that are helpful to the people. And as a Lakota woman I think I’ve been on the progressive side of pretty much everything, and I’ve worked on a lot of different stuff. I was a part of the Keystone Pipeline folks in South Dakota.

I’ve worked for the A C L U on the reservations during the abortion campaigns in 2008 and 2006. Now, all the Lakota, Dakota people the Oceti Sakowin, and all the indigenous allies who’ve come to support us and all the other allies who have come to support us are doing something against the face of this oncoming climate destruction. Someone asked me yesterday as an environmentalist, what does a good, healthy environment look like? I said, go to the indigenous people in that land.

If they’re healthy, that land is healthy. We are water, we are the land, and that’s what we’ve been trying to tell everyone for 500 years. We can’t give you something we don’t own. We belong to the land. We belong to the water. We belong to these rocks that are these cannon balls that used to be formed here.

UQUALLA: The situation at hand actually is going to determine whether we as a two-leggeds or in English, the human people are gonna ever survive. What we’re doing is we’re creating such desecration to this mother earth that the more that we desecrate her, the more unstable that she will become. My name is Uqualla and I’m a member of the Havasupai Tribe from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I am very sensitive to any needs that are happening to the Mother Earth globally.

So I’m here as well as many other Native people are all here collectively raising voice to let the world know that we all have to, as a united tribe, protect the mother earth. The environment here at Sacred Camp, and that’s all of the area that’s in question right now, has been with the attitude that people come in to support from a spiritual place. So you’ll find that the energy level here is very calm, very peaceful. The intention and direction for the work that we’re doing on behalf of the Mother Earth is to be able to do it in that spiritual, peaceful, loving way. It seems that the other side that are not seeing things in that way are the ones that are perpetrating the violence onto this very peaceful setting.

HIGH HAT: Came here without a cause and I found it. I have no day to day — whatever stands in front of my way I try to help. I walk until I find somebody that needs my help. I was brought up on the road. My mother taught us how to insulate a tent, how to keep clean. How to use washing machine that my mother taught me decades ago. It’s just a toilet plunger and a five gallon bucket. And you just go ahead and plunge away. And it gets you clean cleaner than the actual washing machine. If you ask me. She also told me to hang my whites out underneath the full moon. It actually bleaches them. 

NATALIE STITES: Overall, the commitment that everybody has to this cause, particularly with the emphasis on the youth and the children. I feel like we’re really safe here. There’s people on my camp and then my relatives throughout all the other camps who would lay down their lives to protect CC and I. CC and I meaning my daughter, and she’s two and a half years old and she loves the camp and she’s had a huge growth spurt and developmental spurt since we’ve been here. And within the camp we care for the children. We put them first, and I think having the children here really shows where our heart and our spirit is in terms of resisting this pipeline. I feel very protected. I feel safer here than I do in Rapid City, South Dakota where I live. 

PRODUCER: Why is that? 

NATALIE STITES: Well, one, there’s no police within the camp. It really does make me feel safer not to have to deal with that.

CHAS DEWETT: There’s a genetic memory running through this camp. And, three, four generations of federal Indian policy has traumatized our people. Sometimes the only words that can describe the situation are profane. And so I’m not sorry for calling these guys who have been trying to kill us and take our land for 500 years fuckers. Because it’s enough. As we go we’re trying to figure this out what does a post-colonial world look like? What does justice look like for Indian people in America? What does it look like?

It’s still, we’re still suffering, I think the rampant effects of genocide and we’re still mascots in America’s mindset. This is starting to open it up a little bit and starting to reach the mainstream folk. And that’s wonderful cuz our people are dying just like the environment’s dying. And that’s what we’re saying here. And in order for us to be whole human beings, we need fresh water. We need future generations. We need to think that we’re gonna continue to exist in 20 years. How can we make our plans when the world is caving in around us? Right. 

NATALIE STITES: The encampment now is surrounded on the north, kinda northwest. Now has these floodlights from Dakota Access Pipeline. After a number of incidents happened with the confrontations, with the police at different direct action sites. It is to discourage kind of nighttime operations by folks, activist folks who are plotting the next action or however that works.

But I also think though it’s an excuse to just incur more costs. That they’re gonna find reimbursable as they set up this framework for reimbursability. And protect their corporate center no matter what,. Because it’s all these sub entities, right? They’re taking all these risks involved in this, this or that. And they’re the ones also, doing kind of psychological ops on the folks here at the camp. Through the floodlights, through the nearly constant surveillance by helicopter and plane. And also by regular infiltration. By folks who intend to cause trouble and do. Both at the direct actions themselves and also here at the camp.

MOWGLI: I’m with the Pueblo Water Rescue team. I’m not actually Pueblo, I’m a Miniconjou Lakota from here and Standing Rock Lakota. Sunday night I was actually at the front bringing people back. Who had been maced people had been, shot, sprayed. I seen one of the– I don’t know if he was a DAPL security guard or Morton County Sheriff’s Deputy. But this young girl had went up the hill off the Turtle Island and shut off one of the lights, the generator’s, big generator’s pointing down at us.

And so she’s coming down the hill, fleeing, and either the DAPL worker or the Morton County Sheriff reaches over the ledge with a rifle and fires two rounds at her. I mean, she’s running away from– she’s obviously no threat. I’m a former police officer, I’ve been trained by the FBI and whatever, but there’s no justification. Shoot a fleeing woman in the back. She’s no threat, no weapon, no nothing. You can’t justify shooting her in the back like he did. And that’s been documented. She went to the medic tent. And they’re doing this crap all the time. And they’re getting away with it. I don’t know why America’s not standing up more against it. It’s just BS here.

HIGH HAT: I was on the bridge last Sunday and I watched a lot of people fall. I was hit myself, froze out. They used water on us in freezing weather. It’s like there’s no end to what they’re willing to do. In times of war, people are supposed to carry badges. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s a badge to say I’m an emergency personnel. I’m not here to fight. I’m here to help. When did that turn, when did that change? 

MOWGLI: Mainstream media isn’t really telling the story. What’s really going on here? I mean, one black man gets shot in New York City or New Orleans, and it’s national news. They’ve been killing Indians here — , I mean, if you look at the stats, look at Rapid City, South Dakota. Here in Bismarck, number of Indians being pulled over and shot and killed. But we don’t get national attention for some reason.

So, and it’s like, native lives don’t matter, you know? But Black Lives matter, and I mean, it’s, you know what I mean? It’s crazy. The whole thing with this pipeline is if they would’ve left it going north of Bismarck where it would’ve affected the white population, probably wouldn’t been that big a deal. But okay, let’s move down here to the Indians where, you know, they don’t matter. So, I mean, that’s, BS. 

PRODUCER: So what happens now? What’s the progress for the future? 

MOWGLI: We’re gonna stop the pipeline. That’s all I’m here to do. If you guys want proof right here, you can smell this mask. I got this yesterday and I took a shower at 11 o’clock, so I know I’m clean. I washed every part of me cuz this from the plane. This is from that plane. And if you smell the mask, we here I don’t know what, I don’t know what they’re dropping. It’s chemicals. It it is short burst. It is not lasting long. If you, now that I warned you, you guys actually looking for it. You’ll taste it if when you take a deep breath. It’s not long. It won’t, it’s not lingering. It’s just a sharp burst.

PRODUCER: It smells like bug spray. What’s it coming from? 

MOWGLI: It’s coming from this plane that’s this plane circled this camp already like 12 times. I’m going around informing people. Letting them smell this mask that I have in my hand. This is a brand new mask. I took a shower last night, 12 o’clock. Cuz I ain’t took a shower in two weeks. So that was the first shower I took. So I know I’m clean. What’s your name? Yeah. Yeah. I’m not saying my government. Mowgli, yeah I go by Mowgli around here. But that plane is dropping shit on us and I’m more updating people.

If you want me DAPL, you can come get me. But this mask has chemicals in it and you’re dropping us on people, innocent people. Kids, little kids are breathing this in. Smelling it, getting in their eyes. I had already flushed my eyes out once. I’m gonna have to do it again cause like my eyes are starting to burn. But if they want me, You have to come get me from this camp. And I’m a young warrior and I’m not going down now to fight if you enter this camp. My first battle, I got wounded real bad cuz I don’t know if you guys seen videos.

But young Mowgli was on the barbed wire fence, taking that hose, putting the boards up there. That was this young man right here who’s speaking on this microphone. And I took rounds for my brothers. I watched them shoot a brother and he fell forward and I tried to grab him. But they shot me down. And when I looked up to peek at him, they tased him and they drug him back.

BRIAN O’KEEFE: Yeah. My name’s Brian O’Keefe. I’m from Santa Fe, New Mexico. I belong to Amnesty International. I’m the secretary of our group. And I have a contusion, a bruise below my right eye that runs down my cheek. Which was caused during an action I attended, we were on a line across railroad tracks from security, from DAPL security, trying to block access to a equipment yard. Again, we did not cross the line. Not one activist crossed that line. But the police, the security did cross the line on the east side.

And we were called to hold up that side of the line. Otherwise they would flank us. And then they did circle us and they could arrest all of us. So I ran down there. I was the first one to get down there and called others. And maybe 20 or 30 of us were there standing in line. One of the security men said, get back. They put up their plastic shields and they started shoving us back down the railroad track.

I got pushed and my hat came off. So I instinctively turned around to pick up my hat, and that’s when four security jumped on me and smashed my face into the rocks and caused this contusion. And a stage two concussion. I got kicked or hit in the ribs with a truncheon or a boot, I don’t know which. 

CHAS DEWETT: State of North Dakota has tied their, they’ve tied their humanity to this pipeline. And we’re seeing that, and that’s pretty ugly. That’s pretty sad, but all we can do is pray for them because they’re gonna, they’re gonna be here after this just like we are.

NATALIE STITES: I think the idea of imminent danger of needing to leave the camp at a moment’s notice is something that all of us women here who are caring for our children are consistently aware of. And it’s always pressing on our mind that we need to have some kind of quick escape route should the police forces advance into the camp. Which hasn’t happened yet, and the camp has been very safe. Even as all these direct actions have taken place within this certain radius of the pipeline construction.

And because the violence has been brought by DAPL and the police and the local county, Morton County, state of North Dakota apparatus. And there’s very little distinction between what DAPL is doing versus what the county’s doing versus what the state is. And I think we really are confronting a fascist regime when there’s no distinction between the government and the corporation.

MOWGLI: What it means to be a warrior is to protect our women, the children, and the elders first. We make sure they get out first, if anything happens. I don’t sleep much, but I get enough to keep myself– my body functioning right to keep a sharp eye and a sharp head going on my shoulders. 

NATALIE STITES: There’s a lot of women warriors in this as well. Women who are going to the front line and who are risking their lives and their liberty for the water and to protect it. The women are spiritually associated with the water, and so in our Lakota Dakota belief system. So it’s entirely appropriate that the women who have been laying the groundwork for this movement and who are doing this work in terms of organizing the social movement, you know that they are female.

CHAS DEWETT: We had 150 women in white skirts and white bandanas and white shawls. We had a procession for where the blockade is. And we got to the blockade and we sang songs, the song of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, and we said a few words, white Buffalo Calf Woman is, she’s the woman for us. She brought us our ways and we honor her as we honor each other, and that’s who we are. We’re the White Buffalo Calf People. We’re her people. 

NATALIE STITES: The other thing I think that’s important that even as we highlight the women and us bringing our children here. I think that one of the remarkable things that I’ve noticed as a woman is that men who are very oppressed in mainstream society, men with records, men who have difficulties around employment due to all of the criminalization of our Native American communities across the board. There’s a role for men here. They’re at the gate, they’re on the front line. They’re taking care of people. They’re doing things in a way that they are unable to do in mainstream society. Even in terms of providing for the people who are around them here in this camp, or their own camps and so forth.

MOWGLI: We do take being a warrior here is serious. It’s basically security. But we do not go by security cuz that’s what DAPL does. DAPL is security. They secure a line and protect by money and greed. We the people we protect by love and power and pray. 

HIGH HAT: I sit there and think about our camp and how we’re supposed to be a peaceful camp, and yet I hear the rap music on the other side of camp. And the f the police, and it’s not about that. I’ve got no problem with these police. I just have a problem with the idea of them doing what they’re doing. Those are my brothers the same on that side as they are on this side. I love them just the way I do here.

CHAS DEWETT: They think that we’re here because we have nothing else to do. What? So we should all sit home on the rez and watch our people die. Dealing with bad economic policies, dealing with meth, dealing with all this other stuff. And all here we’re living, we’re growing and we’re learning from each other. And that’s — have all the Indians come in. We’re all we’re all getting our indigenous learning from each other. And not that difficult to live the way we did. It’s very easy and it’s simple, and we can’t win a war anymore. We can’t win land, we can’t take all this stuff. We’ve gotta win the hearts and minds of the people.

MOWGLI: Pretty much. If you have a good skill like building or sewing or doctor, if you have a trade, please put it to good use here at the camp. If not, there’s always a lot of things around the camp to be done. That means from the littlest things too. They’ll go around and ask people if they need wood. Or if they need help finding anything, or if they have enough blankets tonight or they’re staying warm. These are basic questions I ask on a regular.

NATALIE STITES: Every single contribution matters. Sharing these stories, these authentic stories about the experience here at Standing Rock and this encampment, I think is critical. It’s something that everybody can do. Talk to your family, talk to your friends about what’s going on. Do you wanna take a step further, mobilize some resources. Look at all the different things that one might need in a winter camp.

Gather those supplies, organize your community to respond to what’s going on here. Have a personal connection to people here at the camp. And even if you make that connection through Facebook or social media. And say hey, I’m gonna raise some money and I’d like to give it to someone I know is gonna use it for the encampment.

HIGH HAT: Money’s what got us in. And I’m almost certain that money is what’s gonna get us out. Cuz sooner or later it is just gonna come down to us, almost bowing to their God the same way they do, you know. To make things work and become brothers again.

BRIAN O’KEEFE: The hope is that somehow the machine that is corporate, vicious, savage takers of everything. This is a line, a line has been drawn in the sand here. For the indigenous people and the people I’m staying with, which is the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Oscar High Elk is the sort of the leader of the group here. They represent 20,000 Sioux from South Dakota. He suited up today to go to the front line and he said there’s not gonna be a Wounded Knee here. They’re gonna have to kill me in front of my tent. 

UQUALLA: Hopes are always going to be not for individual personal gain, but it is always for people to look at the wellbeing of a given tribe, clan, nation, city. And it’s to be able to provide for support for so that it remains within the walk and watch and experience of all generations to come. But in moments like this, we need to realize that there’s no differences within people. And we’ve got to be able to come together as one unified force so that we can allow for the continued survival of two-leggeds as well as the Mother Earth.

MOWGLI: It is amazing to see all different nations together in one area. Different races, different people all coming together from different cultures. Everyone’s forming a bond here. And it’s a wonderful thing to see. I am glad I was called down here. I’m glad, had the courage to come down. And I’m here for the long run and I’m not going nowhere. Yeah. Anything else? 

PRODUCER: Can you tell me why you, you spoke to me.

MOWGLI: Well, because I get a good vibe from you. I know you’ll put the real story out. And if you don’t, I know what your face looks like. I remember faces and names pretty well now because I’ve grown very protective over the people in this camp. I’ve cared for most of these people that come through the door and the gate, so. 

PRODUCER: Alright. Two last things. Do you have any last words or thoughts or just anything you wanna say to the world? 


NATALIE STITES: I think it’s important too to note that while I think prayers are being answered, and there’s so much spirituality here, there’s so many spirits here. Our ancestors are with us, and it’s really a powerful feeling. Don’t you as a non-Indian, don’t go to the camp looking for healing or something to satisfy something that you’re searching for.

However, the healing is going on among all the indigenous people here. In ways that I think that are profound. Other people are like I’ve been sober for 30 days and I’m off meth and I’m doing this. And that type of healing has been taking place to this camp even as we endure the direct attacks from DAPL and the government here.

HIGH HAT: I just wanna say to everybody, warmth and family to you all. I feel it here. I feel blessed this morning. I feel I alive and I hope you all do too. They call me. High Hat. If you come by, you need help, ask for High Hat.

NATALIE STITES: My hope for the future is that our water protectors will be honored for the rest of their lives. For the sacrifices that they have made by our community and the world at large. That none of them will face any prison time for what’s taken place here. So that’s number one for the future. And there’s upwards of, what, 300 people now, or over 400, I’ve heard that recently.

Who’ve been arrested and who are water protectors. So there’s that, and my hope for the future is that this phenomenon will continue to raise the consciousness of our people, first and foremost. And that this transformation is something that is embedded and even institutionalized if need be. Because I think that the consequences of this level of mobilization led by Lakota Dakota Nakota people is unprecedented. But it is time for that.

CHAS DEWETT: We could sit in that anger, that righteous anger of what America has done to us. Or we can continue forward and try to figure out a way for all of us. We don’t know how we can say it, we just have to keep saying it in all the different ways, is that we just wanna live our lives. We want our water and our wombs to be unpolluted.

We want the water in our drinking glasses to be unpolluted. We want our grandchildren to have that same experience. And that may not happen. It may not happen now. You know right now if things don’t change, the next war that we’re gonna have is gonna be about water.