New Orleans The election is over, but there is still a tremendous struggle being waged by the Standing Rock Sioux and a host of allies from tribes all over the country and supporters in a face-off with the pipeline constructors coming ever closer to the embattled and sacred areas. I talked to Mekasi Camp Horinek of Bold Alliance on Wade’s World on KABF, and got a closer understanding of where this fight stands today, both imperiled and a rally cry for many around the country, from his perspective after the last three months he has been part of the occupation.
North Dakota in November can be harsh country on its vast plains and hillsides. My first question to Mekasi had been about the weather. In order to get good enough cellphone coverage for radio, he had climbed to the top of the ridge to call me. He reported there was a dense fog that morning with visibility no more than fifty feet and, worse, there were ice crystals in the fog with the temperature dropping. It goes without saying that adds up to rough weather for an encampment. Having seen news reports of recent standoffs where more than one-hundred were arrested, I asked him how many people were in the encampment at Standing Rock. I was shocked when he responded that 2300 people were staying in the camp. In North Dakota, that’s a small city, even if they are sixty miles south of Bismark. I can’t even imagine the logistical challenges of housing and feeding that number, but Mekasi shrugged off the question, saying that they were getting support from everywhere, people were staying in tents and teepees with wood stoves.
Mekasi’s organization, Bold Alliance, has refitted one of those barn-shed structures you see for sale at Lowe’s and Home Depots across the country with insulation, solar panels, and a wood stove so that it will sleep six. Willie Nelson funded the first one, and they have twenty being delivered the first of December so that more people can winter at the site, but they are still raising the money for those. Talking over the weekend to Chapman Clark in New Orleans organizing a supply truck to go to Standing Rock at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse this week and one of many around the country doing the same, when I asked him about the huge logistical challenges of this kind of action, he also shrugged in his own way, saying this is now just something that people know how to do in the aftermath of Occupy. Good skills to have!
Mekasi and Bold Alliance have been fighting pipelines from Keystone to Standing Rock. They want the pipeline stopped. In Keystone, a victory securing an environmental impact statement made a huge difference. There has been none at Standing Rock. The big hope is that President Obama’s promise that the Corp of Engineers is looking for another route to avoid sacred areas will be delivered, but construction continues every day, and the Corp report has been postponed, forcing more nonviolent protests. The reaction has been fierce and brutal. Mekasi and his mother were part of the more than one-hundred arrested. They were held for eight hours, even having the bail money available. Many others are still being held without bail. They were put in dog cages in the basement of the courthouse in miserable, inhuman conditions.
This is a fight that deserves more attention and needs huge support. Time to stop with our worry beads and make sure we’re still doing the work.