Standing Rock Is Not A Protest

November 07, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

On the 18th of October, Juan-Carlos Delgado set off from Portland, OR in a white Ford F150 4X4 via Interstate 84. Traveling through Eastern Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and eventually reaching North Dakota. It was his intention of observing and documenting the camp at the Standing Rock Reservation in Cannon Ball, ND. His stay was cut short by several missteps on his part, all of which are explained in his transcript below. The following is taken from journal entries, video reports, and audio recordings Mr. Delgado sent back to Portland, OR shortly after leaving the camp. He kindly asked that I transcribe and publish the report here as he is on an extended road trip traveling through 13 states in the western half of the USA searching for the reasons this election season has been so strange, the strangest ever as far as most can tell. 

DAPL Resistance Water Protectors in Cannon Ball, NDDAPL resistance Water Protectors confront police at the DAPL construction site 6 miles from the Standing Rock reservation.

10/20/2016 - The unmuffled pickup truck tore down the two late highway with a terrible metallic ripping noise that stood out harshly in a pristinely beautiful place such as Cannon Ball, ND. It was headed in the direction of the Red Warrior Camp but did not turn at the small dirt road leading to it and instead sped past it at an alarming speed. I had been warned repeatedly about photographing the warrior camp without their explicit permission. Something rarely given unless a direct action was going on. These are the vanguard, the physical manifestation of what is otherwise a spiritual gathering. In fact, those who have gathered here to stop the pipeline from burrowing under one of their most sacred resources ask that I call them protectors and not protesters. 

 

As I completed my check in at the media tent, I was given a list of actions/places that I was forbidden to photograph as well as a press badge. The list seemed excessive at first but the more time I spent walking around, the more I realized the very sensitive nature of what we are dealing with here. A re-opening of a wound that never healed for an entire nation of people. Indeed, tribes that had been completely alienated from each other now camped together side by side. Together in their cause and culture. I am in on their land, and in particular, sacred ground. Even as I sit here now, typing with gloves so my hands don’t go numb with cold, young men from one end of the camp raise their voices and scream into the night in their native tongue “Water is Life” and seconds later, voices from across the river bank explode in response completing the moment. 

 

To say that the rights of the native people of the United States have not been respected so well in the past is at best, a gross underestimation. These folks know they got the shaft, mainly because they keep getting it. To ignore the plight of the Native American in 2016 should be horrid to us, it’s almost cliché to talk about what should only be described as the genocide of these people. We are talking about folks that have very little to begin with. The socio economic status statistics alone would make even the most staunch libertarian a bleeding heart liberal.

Water Protectors Marching in Cannon Ball, ND. Early morning direct action by DAPL resistance march to the construction site.

10/21/2016 - The exodus continued for several hours after darkness had fully engulfed the campsite. Endless headlights climbing up a hill to exit the camp and turn left towards the Standing Rock reservation. Where they are going is anyones guess, it is Friday night after all. From what I was told by a tall Native man asking for a ride at the makeshift security gate, there is a casino 10 miles up the road. This happened earlier in the day and may be completely unrelated. I’ve not seen much outlandish behavior, nearly everyone I have met has been extremely gracious. The pockets of resistance I run into are understandable. The press has not always been a friend to the Native American. 

 

There are two distinct sections of the DAPL resistance movement here. The larger and more commonly understood section of the camp that resides on the land owned and operated by the Army Corps Of Engineers is a sprawling expanse of teepees, tents, trailers and trucks. A few converted busses and the occasional Subaru Outback dotted here and there for good measure. You would find it hard to walk through the camp without being offered food and everyone here happily responds to being greeted. These folks may be the most embracing people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Story after story is eagerly told to me over offers of swamp tea and other indigenous edibles and drinkables. No one here pays for food and no one goes hungry.

 

Like many things for the Native Americans, the Red Warrior camp across the river is a study in contradictions. Located properly on the Standing Rock reservation, the Red Warrior camp does not allow video or photography of any kind. Even the slightest inclination of such actions by a journalist will land them in serious trouble. I found this out earlier today when I tried to introduce myself to a knife wearing guard at the gate to the camp. The situation escalated quickly as I had entered the camp completely unnoticed by a group of Native America men whom I assumed would have stopped me if there was an issue with my presence. Unfortunately for me, they were simply unobservant and my presence there was indeed not welcome. 

 

Having assured the angry man, and his incredibly scary knife, that I was as eager to leave as he was to have me go, I hurried myself down the mile long dirt path leading away from the Red Warrior camp towards the highway. I would have found it curious that the members of this camp were so resistant to the press had I not already walked through their camp. What I saw, and without going into detail, was the beginnings of the solidification of a long term occupation. The start of a long game of chicken with the Federal Government, the State of North Dakota, and the power brokers behind DAPL. The oil companies should not be afraid of what is here now, they should be afraid of those who stay behind once we all leave. 

Early morning convoy of DAPL Resistance Water Protectors. Heading to the front lines with a convoy of DAPL Resistance Water Protectors.

10/22/2016 The 6 am wake up call to prayer for the young men being sent out to the rising sun in support of the DAPL Resistance caught me just a bit off guard. I stumbled out into the freezing early morning air with my camera bag and back pack. I had on what I had worn to bed that night, thermal underwear and sweats. It had still been a cold night. 

 

I quickly learned that earlier in the morning (several hours) members of the Red Warrior camp executed a direct action by locking themselves to the construction equipment at the DAPL construction site. The men utilized sleeves made out of pipe to make removing them more difficult. The police have to have them cut out in a very time consuming process. It’s an effective and extreme way of protesting not for the faint of heart. Of all the things these folks are short on, heart is not one of them. 

 

The real urgency here is that the oil pipeline will run a particularly dirty type of oil called super crude oil and as of this report, is now only about 5 miles off the reservation. They Native Americans know they don’t have the upper hand in all this. The fact that the mostly Caucasian city of Bismarck did not want this very pipeline running through their water supply only serves to show where the state of North Dakota seemingly places it’s priorities. The police act unsure and yet determined to show force often when dealing with the Native Americans. Initially, almost baiting them by parking their vehicles up on a hill in a roadblock formation only to move back as the Native Americans approach them. Ultimately the police back up into a defensive position and wait for the go ahead to lunge forward and start arresting as many of the DAPL Resistance members as they can. 

 

Today, between 80-100 DAPL Resistance members were arrested and several were injured by the arresting officers. An ambulance was seen leaving the demonstration but specifics have not been released as to why it was there in the first place. As I walked behind the DAPL Resistance march to and from the construction site, I observed two helicopters, a plane, and a drone following us. The helicopter would fly alarmingly close to the Native Americans as they marched in what appeared to me to be a act of intimidation. Almost immediately after starting the march, an emergency alert was sent out by the local authorities. The alert, that sounded exactly like an amber alert, let the entire community know that a protest was blocking the highway and that the police had closed the roads. The DAPL Resistance members were essentially trapped, as was I. 

 

Technically, I was trespassing. The Native Americans claim to have the right to be on that land as it is their ancient ancestral burial grounds. However, that did not stop DAPL from beginning construction of the oil pipeline on that very land now owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. By the time I had hiked back from the construction site to my truck, the roads were open again and I was glad to be headed back to base camp. That cup of instant coffee never tasted so good. 

Path leading to the Red Warrior CampPath leading to the Red Warrior CampThe entrance to the path leading to the Red Warrior camp at the Standing Rock reservation in Cannon Ball, ND.

10/23/2016 - By far today was the most intense day yet. On the heals of Saturday morning’s direct action came the shut down of the entrance and exits to the DAPL resistance camp without prior approval. I was stopped on my way back from the adjacent camp across the Cannon Ball River. The man who approached me was not someone I had met there before. He seemed a bit different, like he was prepared for conflict and in fact, had a hard time avoiding it. Interestingly, at this point, paramilitary style clothing was worn by some but not the Native Americans. These were outsiders, bearded white men with knives and wearing tans only awarded to those who have met the sun at its hottest and kept going. Men who understood checkpoints and the organizational structure to make them effective. I’ve seen these men before at other conflicts here in the USA. This is the first time I’ve seen them have to activate in this way. A surprisingly well oiled machine considering it’s running on broken down spare parts compared to law enforcement agencies. My first defense is to be assertive but nice. Honestly, this either goes over well or confuses the hell out of them. This time it went well. So well that I sat with those same guards for several hours following that incident. They were all anticipating an event that would not happen until a few days after that. However, the only thing they were wrong about was the timing. 

 

As I bundled up under two sleeping bags and a blanket later that night, the normal drumming coming from the center of the camp did not stop at its regular hour. It went late into the night. Even more alarming was the volume and speed of the drumming. The singing was higher pitched and human voices participated in the rhythmic symphony much more frequently. It sounded like a (barely) restrained force, a rattle snake warning you that if you come closer, it meant trouble. These were the drums of war. The deep bass resonated as if it came from the underground, the earth a willing bandmate. I drifted off to sleep at some point early in the morning hours. I don’t remember exactly when, and it was not easy sleep. 

A view of the DAPL construction site that runs through Native American burial grounds.A view of the DAPL construction site that runs through Native American burial grounds.

10/24/2016 - The morning started out with confusion and bad noises from all sides of my truck camper. I froze in my sleeping bag for a moment and then quickly reached for my shoes and hat. The door of the camper opened with a gentle snap as the frost broke away from it. I squinted and tried to focus on what was going on all around the camp. I saw nothing out the of ordinary and walked to the port-a-potty in a bit of confused state. 

 

The morning progressed like any other, some seemed relieved that the authorities had not raided the camp in the middle of the night. Still, a sense of tension ran through the camp amongst the people who where charged with keeping it a safe place for everyone there. I made a cup of coffee and surveyed the scene. It seemed as if everything was going to be ok for a moment and thought that it seemed like a good time to head into town to refill my supply of water and find a strong wifi connection. Having been warned of road blocks going south that were passable, I drove to the front line heading north just a couple of miles from the camp to see if it looked the same. Upon my arrival, I was informed that the due to legal liability reasons of protesters blocking the road and delaying emergency vehicles, some of the organizers were asking people to return to the south camp as the north camp was still being set up at this time. I kept walking north trying to get some idea of how passible the highway was. From what I could see, there were no immediate police checkpoints visible. I got back into my truck and took what turned out to be a one way ride into Mandan. 

 

Almost immediately I regretted my decision. What happened next was an eye opening 15 min look at how the hammer comes down in ND. See, that’s the thing about hammers, it does not matter how old or slow they are, they all work the same. I made the one critically bad move that anyone that has had bad run-ins with the police makes when questioned, I hesitated. In hindsight, police and military road blocks have always been an issue for me. Back in 2009 I had a similar incident in Sri Lanka, however, this one was far less intense. In this instance, I was pulled over and made aware that the road leading to the camp was closed until further notice due to protesters unlawfully trespassing and creating unsafe conditions. I informed the officer that I was with the press and asked if I would be let back in. The officer simply stated that if I returned to the camp I would be trespassing and that my information will be recorded to serve as prior warning. I drove off irritated and weighing the pros and cons of an arrest and vehicle impoundment. That day, as I sat in a Hardees in Mandan, ND, I saw the first inklings of a viral news story about Standing Rock. I felt a pang of relief. Say what you will about Millennials, they are the greatest consumers of actual hard news. I knew that at the very least the world would now know what happened in Cannon Ball, ND at the start of the cold season in this fateful, agonizingly long year of our lord, 2016. 

A Native youth rides a horse through the campsite just after sunrise at the DAPL Resistance camp in Cannon Ball, ND. Horses are a common sight around the camp and used primary for transportation.A Native youth rides a horse through the campsite just after sunrise at the DAPL Resistance camp in Cannon Ball, ND. Horses are a common sight around the camp and used primary for transportation. A group of campers stake our a spot for their tents and horse at the DAPL Resistance campsite in Cannon Ball, ND. Strong winds and dropping temperatures at night are a large concern to those choosingA group of campers stake our a spot for their tents and horse at the DAPL Resistance campsite in Cannon Ball, ND. Strong winds and dropping temperatures at night are a large concern to those choosing A Native man in a high visibility jacket rides his horse through the campsite at the DAPL Resistance camp in Cannon Ball, ND. Horses are a common sight around the camp and used primary for transportatA Native man in a high visibility jacket rides his horse through the campsite at the DAPL Resistance camp in Cannon Ball, ND. Horses are a common sight around the camp and used primary for transportat The flags of the many Native American tribes camping at the DAPL Resistance campsite are planted along the main paths and along the highway.The flags of the many Native American tribes camping at the DAPL Resistance campsite are planted along the main paths and along the highway. Many Native Americans still prefer the traditional methods of erecting teepees although it is not uncommon to find modern heating devices alongside a more traditional central fire.Many Native Americans still prefer the traditional methods of erecting teepees although it is not uncommon to find modern heating devices alongside a more traditional central fire. A roadside memorial at the crossing of the Missouri River separating Cannon Ball, ND and the Standing Rock Reservation.A roadside memorial at the crossing of the Missouri River separating Cannon Ball, ND and the Standing Rock Reservation. Medical supplies that have been donated to the DAPL Resistance campsite. A working healing center and first aide unit serve anyone needing medical attention. EMS is called for more severe injuries howMedical supplies that have been donated to the DAPL Resistance campsite. A working healing center and first aide unit serve anyone needing medical attention. EMS is called for more severe injuries how The medicine pouch of Healer and Tribal Elder Daphne Singingtree. Elder Singingtree runs the healing and first aide center at the DAPL Resistance campsite.The medicine pouch of Healer and Tribal Elder Daphne Singingtree. Elder Singingtree runs the healing and first aide center at the DAPL Resistance campsite. Healer and Tribal Elder Daphne Singingtree. Elder Singingtree runs the healing and first aide center at the DAPL Resistance campsite. She has been practicing healing since the age of 12 and is a midwiHealer and Tribal Elder Daphne Singingtree. Elder Singingtree runs the healing and first aide center at the DAPL Resistance campsite. She has been practicing healing since the age of 12 and is a midwi Sweet corn being dried for winter storage at the DAPL Resistance campsite.Sweet corn being dried for winter storage at the DAPL Resistance campsite. A Native American man rides his horse through the #DAPL Resistance campground in the direction of the front lines.A Native American man rides his horse through the #DAPL Resistance campground in the direction of the front lines. Two Native American men ride their horses through the camp at a quick pace.Two Native American men ride their horses through the camp at a quick pace. Native Americans and other DAPL Resistance members gather at sunrise for a 5 mile march to the DAPL construction site.Native Americans and other DAPL Resistance members gather at sunrise for a 5 mile march to the DAPL construction site. Native American Water Protectors at sunrise marching toward the DAPL construction site.Native American Water Protectors at sunrise marching toward the DAPL construction site. DAPL Resistance Water Protectors march towards a hill under the watchful eyes of law enforcement and private security companies. Behind the hill is the DAPL construction site.DAPL Resistance Water Protectors march towards a hill under the watchful eyes of law enforcement and private security companies. Behind the hill is the DAPL construction site. DAPL Resistance Water Protectors wearing masks help guide the marchers toward the DAPL construction site.DAPL Resistance Water Protectors wearing masks help guide the marchers toward the DAPL construction site. A Native American Water Protector holds a religious bundle containing sage and sweet grass called a smudge stick. Those marching to the DAPL construction site cleanse themselves with the white smoke aA Native American Water Protector holds a religious bundle containing sage and sweet grass called a smudge stick. Those marching to the DAPL construction site cleanse themselves with the white smoke a A young Native American girl marches with other Water Protectors toward the DAPL construction site.A young Native American girl marches with other Water Protectors toward the DAPL construction site. Native Americans and other DAPL Resistance members gather at sunrise for a 5 mile march to the DAPL construction site. Police and private security can be seen on the hill directly in the path of the DNative Americans and other DAPL Resistance members gather at sunrise for a 5 mile march to the DAPL construction site. Police and private security can be seen on the hill directly in the path of the D Native Americans and other DAPL Resistance members gather at sunrise for a 5 mile march to the DAPL construction site.Native Americans and other DAPL Resistance members gather at sunrise for a 5 mile march to the DAPL construction site. DAPL Resistance Water Protectors wearing masks help guide the marchers toward the DAPL construction site.DAPL Resistance Water Protectors wearing masks help guide the marchers toward the DAPL construction site. A law enforcement helicopter follows Native American Water Protectors as they walk along the path towards the #DAPL construction site.A law enforcement helicopter follows Native American Water Protectors as they walk along the path towards the #DAPL construction site. A Native American child watches as a law enforcement helicopter follows Native American Water Protectors as they walk along the path towards the #DAPL construction site.A Native American child watches as a law enforcement helicopter follows Native American Water Protectors as they walk along the path towards the #DAPL construction site. A law enforcement helicopter follows Native American Water Protectors as they walk along the path towards the #DAPL construction site.A law enforcement helicopter follows Native American Water Protectors as they walk along the path towards the #DAPL construction site. A law enforcement helicopter follows Native American Water Protectors as they walk along the path towards the #DAPL construction site.A law enforcement helicopter follows Native American Water Protectors as they walk along the path towards the #DAPL construction site. Native American Water Protectors and their supporters clash with police as they reach the DAPL construction site. Approximately 80 DAPL Resistance members were arrested.Native American Water Protectors and their supporters clash with police as they reach the DAPL construction site. Approximately 80 DAPL Resistance members were arrested. Native American Water Protectors and their supporters clash with police as they reach the DAPL construction site. Approximately 80 DAPL Resistance members were arrested.Native American Water Protectors and their supporters clash with police as they reach the DAPL construction site. Approximately 80 DAPL Resistance members were arrested. Police at the DAPL construction site move to defensive positions closer to the construction equipment being used to dig the pipeline as marchers move in.Police at the DAPL construction site move to defensive positions closer to the construction equipment being used to dig the pipeline as marchers move in. A Native American man hopelessly pleads with the police to leave the pipeline construction site and join the #DAPL resistance.A Native American man hopelessly pleads with the police to leave the pipeline construction site and join the #DAPL resistance. Two Native Americans stand near police guarding construction equipment owned by the DAPL.Two Native Americans stand near police guarding construction equipment owned by the DAPL. A view of the DAPL construction site that runs through Native American burial grounds.A view of the DAPL construction site that runs through Native American burial grounds. A Native American man and elder that identifies himself as "Dan" stands on a bluff overlooking the DAPL pipeline construction site and sings in his native language.A Native American man and elder that identifies himself as "Dan" stands on a bluff overlooking the DAPL pipeline construction site and sings in his native language. A Native American man and elder that identifies himself as "Dan" stands on a bluff overlooking the DAPL pipeline construction site and sings in his native language.A Native American man and elder that identifies himself as "Dan" stands on a bluff overlooking the DAPL pipeline construction site and sings in his native language. Four Native American men on horseback returning from the front lines near the new location of the DAPL Resistance campsite.Four Native American men on horseback returning from the front lines near the new location of the DAPL Resistance campsite. Large logs are delivered to the new site if the DAPL Resistance camp now directly in the path of the DAPL.Large logs are delivered to the new site if the DAPL Resistance camp now directly in the path of the DAPL.

 

 


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