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Standing Rock Protectors Interview: Cosme Duarte

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Why should you care about what’s happening at Standing Rock?  Do you care about clean water? Do you believe the powers that be that tell you this pipeline they plan to stick under the Missouri River is full of advanced tech and will never leak?  Meanwhile have you noticed the oil spill in Yellowstone, and all the other oil spills in the news?  Those pipelines were made of the latest advanced tech of their day, too.

An oil pipeline under America’s greatest river?  What could possibly go wrong? Do you care about justice? Do you care about preserving the sacred sites and burial places of indigenous people? Do you care about your own civil rights?  Because those rights are being put to the test at Standing Rock.

Didn’t Obama already stop the Dakota Pipeline? No. In fact, it’s a typical delay tactic used by our government throughout American history. Diffusing confrontation by appearing reasonable, then it’s back to business as usual without that pesky public support for the protestors.

Many of the protectors I’ve communicated with talk about invisibility.  On the Pine Ridge Reservation in 2007 life expectency for males was 48, 52 for females. 97% of of the population at Pine Ridge live below the federal poverty line.   The employment rate at best is 15%, unemployment has been as high as 95%.  Infant mortality is the worst on this continent.   Elderly Sioux at Pine Ridge die every winter from hypothermia.  It’s a crisis and a national disgrace.

Water is life.  The state of our water, salt and fresh, has never been worse. We pump our waste chemicals into the environment in horrifying amounts. Neither the salmon in the rivers of Washington state, nor the deep water fish of our oceans are free from the contaminants we’ve been dumping for decades. Protecting our water and environment for future generations is what the protest at Standing Rock is all about. But that’s only one of many places worldwide where indigenous people are battling for their lives, and for ours.

Cosme Duarte had the courage to bring his three daughters with him to Standing Rock.  We thank him for allowing us to share his footage of arriving at the camp and of the protest to stop the bulldozers on sacred ground.


Tamra Lucid: What do you want people to know about the Army Corps, Department of Defense, and Department of the Interior asking for a delay in pipeline construction?

Cosme Duarte: The battle between good and evil has only begun. Obama’s move to stop the pipeline was only a ploy to buy time. Don’t believe the hype.

Who or what inspired you to go to Standing Rock?

I went to Standing Rock as a representative of the Yaqui Nation as a whole, as well as the Apache, Navajo, and Spanish nations. I was inspired to go because I am always teaching on behalf of Unity and Peace but have not been able to contribute to a cause as just as this one until now.

Pulling into the camp.

What kind of help did you get to get out there? 

I ran a Paypal page to collect donations here in Colorado for 2 weeks and received just over 100 in monetary donations. I then collected food, water, camping gear, etc. from friends who wanted to help. I planned on filling a Uhaul truck but was only able to fill my own. Support was minimal and we paid for most of the trip and donations out of pocket.

Did your children enjoy the stay at the camp?  What were some of their observations?

My children had the most amazing time there. They were able to see what humanity should be like and it will stay with them forever.

What kind of interference have you experienced out there? I’ve heard that cell phones have been jammed.

I had zero cell service the entire time I was there. I was also present the day we had the stand off with the hired thugs and their dogs.

I’ve heard that the elder females and young warriors started and led the march to protect the burial grounds. Is that how you saw it too? What was it like to be on that march?  What happened when you arrived?

I wasn’t sure who lead the way — we were all at the construction site when a man started calling all of us to move up the hill to stop the dozers. We all marched together in prayer, under helicopter surveillance, ready to make our stand. It was more than I can explain. I posted a video of it yesterday.

Marching up the hill to confront bulldozers at a burial site.

What sort of confrontations have you seen?  How do the security forces and pipeline workers act toward the protectors and visa versa?  Tell us about your commitment to nonviolence.

The hired thugs were ready for a fight. I am a well trained Warrior and can tell by a person’s posture when they’re looking to instigate. The actual construction workers, especially the site superintendent, were waiting for the chance to hurt someone.

I am a true Warrior. That means that although I am trained to use violence if necessary, peace and love are my only weapons. I am dedicated to peace and harmony as are all of my brothers and sisters there.

The confrontation continues.

What is the spirit of the camps like? Is it mostly optimistic? Resigned?  Pessimists vs. hopeful? 

The camp is free. Their minds and hearts are free. They live now only to protect the earth from destruction for all future generations. I feel they all know that it’s a battle we probably won’t win, but our hearts are full so we will continue to protect.

What is needed most by the protectors?

Support is needed most. And coverage.

What was the most moving experience you had at Standing Rock?

The whole experience at Standing Rock was moving. The entire camp was like one big and beautiful dream.

What surprised you most about this protest?

I was surprised most by the unity and common love.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I’d like for your readers to know that Standing Rock is only one front of the battle. Indigenous peoples are fighting for not only their lives but the lives of humanity as well. The Yaqui Nation is dying right now at the hands of big corporations and the Mexican Government. They need our support just as badly. The Navajo Nation is facing a huge challenge with the intentional poisoning of the Animas river and they also need our support. Let’s look at all sides when we consider helping. God be with you all.


This is the first in a series of interviews with Standing Rock Protectors. You can see the other installments below.

Standing Rock Protectors: Gina Marie
Notes from Standing Rock
The Women of Standing Rock: An Interview with Shannon Kring


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    Tamra Lucid is executive producer of a documentary about Los Aldeanos, co-producer of Exile Nation, and associate producer of The Gits documentary. Her zines T.V.i. and Eracism were reprinted in A Girl's Guide To Taking Over The World.

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