As Standing Rock faces the approach of winter, while lawyers and politicians maneuver and shareholders complain, interest in Standing Rock waxes and wanes. After many people shared misleading headlines that made it seem like Obama had stopped the pipeline, interest seemed to decline. But when militarized police confronted a water protector prayer ceremony, video and photos of the incident flew across social media.
Meanwhile at Standing Rock, people of all creeds, colors, ages and genders are meeting each other, exchanging ideas, resources and culture. Many of them go there for short visits. Some of those return for longer stays. The media, which has given far too little coverage to the event, seems to consider it a local protest, but it’s a local protest that continues to inspire people all over the world to take action. Small events in solidarity may not seem like much when ignored by media, but when you see the good will and the generous actions of so many in so many different places, the extraordinary impact of what’s going on at Standing Rock becomes clear.
Gina Marie is the owner of community favorite King Kog Bike Repair and Maintenance in Oakland and drummer of the band Ötzi. She proved to herself and others that you don’t have to be a professional activist to take meaningful action. When Gina and her family used the shop as a place to raise supplies for Standing Rock, a filmmaker friend put together a short that went on to inspire similar events. Gina and her family drove to Standing Rock to bring the supplies they helped raise. While there they helped put up a school.
Tamra Lucid: Who or what inspired you to go to Standing Rock? When and why did you decide to go?
Gina Marie: I saw a couple of posts on Facebook about Standing Rock and couldn’t believe what was happening there. I started calling the White House and ND governor, signing petitions, sharing posts on Facebook, and having conversations with people. I was really fired up and completely shocked there wasn’t more media attention about this.
I started crying the day the oil company bulldozed the sacred burial grounds. I just couldn’t believe this was really happening. My heart was breaking. I saw a post from Sacred Stone Camp about volunteering and decided to share it asking: “Anyone?” I knew then and there that I was going to try to make the trip to camp. I’m extremely grateful for the privilege of being able to leave town with short notice. Next thing I knew I was driving to North Dakota with a truck packed full of supplies!
How did you become an example of how easy it can be to share supplies with Standing Rock?
I wanted to do everything I could to help. At this point I was sharing news posts, calling the White House and ND Governor, signing petitions.
I wanted to make the most of the trip since it was only for a week. I made a Facebook event page for people to bring items to my store. Aliko Sampson, a filmmaker friend asked to document it. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want this to be about me. But when she explained that it would be a good example to show how easily anyone can help, I felt comfortable. The video was shared over 160 times with 17k views. We started hearing that it was inspiring other supply drives too, which is so great. It proves you don’t have to be an “activist” to stand up and do something to help.
What was it like to go through a National Guard checkpoint on your way to camp?
I was super nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. We rolled in around 11 pm, so it was dark and there was a sign warning of an “info” stop ahead.
Flood lights, cameras, and men with guns is what you drive up to. I didn’t know if they were letting people in or if it was ok to say we were heading to camp. In the end they just warned of cattle and people on the sides of the highway. “Drive slow and with caution.”
I’m not sure if my experience was different than others, but I feel their presence is part of a scare tactic to deter people from coming. Totally ridiculous and uncalled for!
Did your child Talulah enjoy the stay at the camp? What were Talulah’s observations?
I think she was shocked by the amount of people and tents that were there. She hasn’t been exposed to much Native American culture and was asking a lot of questions. She just turned five, so I don’t think she can fully grasp the intensity of what is happening at Standing Rock. But she definitely knew we were there to help and support the people.
As for camp: so much open play and community. She made friends with a boy named Sunrise and played with him while we were cleaning and organizing the Defenders of the Sacred Water School. I was relieved to see how quickly she sunk into the life there.
Tell us about the school you helped build and what kids are taught there?
After we unloaded the supplies that we brought up, we were trying to figure out where we could be useful. Talulah wandered into a big army size tent and we introduced ourselves. It was Sunday and they were organizing the donations to make the room ready for school on Monday. We just jumped in and started to help them. It seemed a bit overwhelming and they were extremely grateful. We worked in the school for about 7 hours that day, organizing and building shelves, and walked away with a clean and open room ready for kids!
Tell us about arriving at night to find the camp alive with singing.
It was so beautiful! When entering the camp you drive down a road surrounded by flags on both sides, and people everywhere. I started crying. To finally see the camp for myself was overwhelming. You could feel the energy and spirit immediately upon arriving. I was worried we were coming too late and might wake people. We were super relieved to see the camp so alive! We found our spot to set up tent and walked around. There were several groups singing and dancing around the fire. We watched and met some people. It was special.
What is needed most by the protectors and how do we get it there?
Right now they are preparing for winter — it gets down to -40. They need tipis, wood, thermals, boots, solar panels, lamps, propane cooking tables, heavy duty army style tents, carport size tents, heavy duty shelving, snow shovels, pallets of concrete blocks, sleeping bags and blankets, chainsaws, good knives, basic tools, more trained medic helpers, and more.
You can ship items, find people driving to deliver on a car share FB page, purchase items on Camp Amazon wishlists, donate $ directly. (See links below.)
Gina’s video of the flags at camp.
What was the most moving experience you had at Standing Rock?
They had several speakers on the mic throughout the day. One woman was speaking about her family and everything they have been through, and how they will continue to fight. She was crying and I could feel her pain. I witnessed a lot of people fighting so hard against a system that really fucked them over. You couldn’t help but be moved. Like I said before, the spirit of community and family is so alive there. I was touched by it.
Have you been involved in other protests?
Yes I have. Black Lives Matter, Anti Iraq war protests, 2004 Republican National Convention protest in NYC, and some others.
What is the most memorable conversation you’ve had at Standing Rock?
When we were leaving, one of teachers told us they wouldn’t have been able to have school that day if we hadn’t been there to help. Knowing that we contributed to something so important was really special.
What moments at Standing Rock had the most impact on you?
When I went to visit the Sacred Ground Camp, which is about 6 miles away from Oceti Sakawin (overflow) Camp. I saw the area where the bulldozing of the sacred burial grounds and dog attacks happened.
Talking to the people that were there protecting that area, I could feel their strength and love for the ancestors.
Did you have dreams or animal omens?
I can’t remember my dreams anymore. But I will say that there was a man that I noticed several times over the few days there. As we were leaving, I ran into him at the gas station on the reservation. I decided to introduce myself and turns out he lives in the town I grew up in Northern California. Out of the thousands of people there and the short time we were able to stay, I met someone from home. We exchanged information and I plan to contact him after the pipeline is stopped and he returns home.
What did you learn about community there?
They are family and are looking out for each other. We could all learn to be kind to one another and stick together when we need each other the most.
You can support #SacredStoneCamp through their GoFundMe.
SEND SUPPLIES TO:
Red Warrior Camp
BIE 00N02 Agency Ave
Fort Yates, ND 58538
Phone: (605) 220-2531
Gina Marie’s band Ötzi will be playing the Hexotica Halloween celebration in Oakland and Post Punk Not Dead Fest in Mexico City Nov 19.
This is the second in a series of interviews with Standing Rock Protectors. You can see the other installments below.