Editor’s Note: On April 1, 2016, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe started a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, an approved oil pipeline to be built from North Dakota to Southern Illinois they said would poison their water supply and damage tribal land. The protest grew in size and drew thousands of supporters to the area. On Dec. 4, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not permit an easement through federal land, temporarily halted construction of the pipeline, and said alternate routes would be explored. Oakhurst resident Tricia Louise Tracy and her husband Kent recently traveled to Standing Rock to donate supplies and show their support.
Our journey to Standing Rock started on the morning of Aug. 27, when I was halfway through my morning routine of reading my favorite news blogs while sipping coffee and mentally preparing for my day. I came across a link to an MSNBC news video about the growing protest. It was so moving, I found myself crying and knew instantly that I had to do something to show my support of the Sioux Indian Nation, to the Water Protectors of Standing Rock of North Dakota.
I knew I could not just stand by and not get involved. I could not knowingly continue on everyday as though there was nothing I could do; that would have made me feel as though I was in support of allowing Dakota Access to dig under the Missouri River to run this pipeline. Knowing that the government is putting private interest before the public’s health fueled me with courage to fight for what would be best for the future and the future of our children.
With more research on where this was and what was going on my husband, Kent Tracy, quickly joined me with the same compassion. In the realization that this is the biggest Native American protest in history, we immediately started to plan our journey to North Dakota. We began preparing time away from work here in Oakhurst.
Kent works for Advanced Tree Service and It was an extremely busy time to be away, however, we felt a strong responsibly to show our support to Standing Rock.
After only a few days of posting videos and articles on Facebook I was happy to see friends sharing stories of Standing Rock as well. It was alarming to us all that this was going on in our country, and yet none of the major network news was reporting anything about it.
Several friends and local business owners here in Oakhurst wanted to show their support of Standing Rock as well, and that is when we decided to have a public event at Idle Hour Winery. It turned out to be a smashing fundraiser.
Kent and I had purchased a travel trailer that we planned to take to Standing Rock and leave it there as a donation for the elders of the tribes, so they could have a safe place to sleep as they prepared to stay throughout the winter at Cannon Ball, Sacred Stone Camp.
We left Oakhurst on Oct. 3. We drove through five states before reaching North Dakota, at a total of 2,317 miles and several hundreds of dollars in gas.
When we arrived at Standing Rock, Kent and I were full of excitement after such a long drive full of anticipation. In the days of us driving to Standing Rock things had continued to escalate there, and friends of ours back home were sharing reports of protesters getting arrested and stories about possible violence from the police towards the protesters.
We were sitting up peering out of the windshield like kids after spending days in a car, talking with excitement and surprisingly energized by the unknown welcome that awaited us. As we approached the entrance into the Sacred Stone Camp, where the sacred fire burns and the main focus of events takes place away from the front lines of protesting, we quickly had a change in attitude. We fell into instant silence as we rolled our windows down simultaneously and the howling cold wind cut into the cab of our truck.
The most piercing and brightest blue sky was the backdrop of over 350 tribal flags lining the roadway down both sides and into Sacred Stone Camp. Two young Sioux Native Americans stopped us at the gate. The younger of the two asked us our names and why we were visiting there. He took down our license plate numbers, explained a few important concerns of the others that have been holding this prayer and protest since early April, and then sincerely welcomed us in thanking us for our support.
As Kent put the truck back in gear and began to slowly drive forward into Standing Rock/Sacred Stone Camp I had tears in my eyes. We made it. And the energy was thick, the intensity of the cause was very clear. Everywhere we looked there were people working to secure tents, building winter structures, reinforcing structures that were already erect. Supply trucks filled with donations poured in and were being unloaded and sorted through.
After a few hours of walking around, distributing all the supplies we had gathered from friends back home in Oakhurst, we were befriended by Verdelia American Horse and her husband JR American Horse. Verdelia shared with me that she was one of the original eight that started the prayer early in April right there on the Cannonball River, and she and her husband had been holding this prayer every day since.
Verdelia and I watched the a ceremonial dance being led by the Aztec Tribe of Mexico. It was thrilling! The big colorful headdresses, the drumming and dancing. What impacted me the most about the Aztec’s ceremony is that they were welcomed there, they were encouraged to openly share their differences, and ceremonial beliefs in the sacred land of the Sioux.
This is the bigger story here. The fact that hundreds of tribes have gathered here peacefully and with the same prayer. To save the water, to protect the Earth. That they share their ceremonies openly everyday, sometimes throughout the night.
Kent and I spent the following day with JR and Verdelia. We ate lunch together and they shared so many stories about what had built up to this day.
When they told us about how they had been struggling with the growing colder nights in their Army surplus style tent, we knew right away that the trailer we had brought was meant for them. Verdelia had told us she had been praying for something like this to happen, and giggled when she told me the she even prayed for an RV.
Not knowing that Kent and I had a trailer to offer was a huge surprise when we told them about it, and later delivered it to their camping spot called the Veterans Camp, with nine other senior American war veterans. Verdelia teared up in disbelief and her gratitude was incredibly humble and heartwarming.
I know Verdelia and I are going to be friends forever. I began to miss her minutes after leaving Standing Rock.
Our journey to Standing Rock will be marked as my proudest moment in life. It feels good to know that no matter what we do, to help a good cause is something important.
For all of my friends who lovingly encouraged us, to those that donated what they could, to those who continue to pray, and for those that will find what calls to them and step forward to what they can too.
Because its everyone’s water, its everyone’s earth, and we are all connected by this story of Standing Rock, because we all depend on our future and the future of our children.