Postcard from Burleigh County Jail

Sharon being released from Burleigh County Jail in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Sharon being released from Burleigh County Jail in Bismarck, North Dakota.

This postcard arrived for my family a few days ago, now that I’m home from North Dakota.  It was written so lightly that it was barely legible, but this is what it said:

Dear Ones,

Here I am on my third day in Burleigh County Jail, happy to have a postcard and a rubber pencil so I can write to you.  I am doing just fine, in good spirits and being treated with kindness.  Right now I’m sitting in the dorm on my bunk, watching the movie “Desperado” with my five roommates, each one a beloved child of God.  I’ve been reading, writing, working a jigsaw puzzle, going to the gym, talking, eating (we have lots of cake, but no fruit or vegetables), and catching up on my sleep.  I may get out tomorrow (Monday) or at least get a phone card so I can call you.  I miss you and can hardly wait to see you, my beautiful family.  I feel privileged to stand with the water protectors here at Standing Rock, and will be so glad to be home with you.

Love,

Mom, Grandma, Sharon

I haven’t written about my time in jail, like I promised to do in my last post.  I was planning to post more about my experiences at Standing Rock, the direct action I participated in, and jail, but I was speechless when news came of the extreme violence being perpetrated against the water protectors.  Now there are threats of eviction or roadblocks to prevent supplies from being delivered to the camp.  There is snow on the ground.  Meanwhile, over 2,000 veterans are planning to go to Standing Rock on December 4 to provide nonviolent support to the water protectors.  Things are moving very fast.

Still, I have decided to share a bit about my experiences in jail there.  Why?  Because it really was a great privilege for me to be able to take an action of solidarity with others who are assuming risk for the sake of us all, in a way that was tangible.  Many people are risking far more than I did when I was arrested for holding up a banner in the middle of a road with thirty other people.  I am a privileged white woman, with friends, family, and colleagues who support me.  There is even a fundraising site now to help pay the legal fees for myself and three affinity group members with whom I was arrested.  But so many of the people in jail in North Dakota, including those whom I spent time with, and in our country overall, do not have that kind of support, and Indigenous people are disproportionately incarcerated.

Most important, the Standing Rock Sioux have put out a call for support from people who are willing to stand with them to protect the waters in that place, and who are challenging us to honor the earth for the sake of future generations.  I encourage others to respond to this call in whatever ways they can.  You can begin by calling these numbers listed here to call for a halt to the eviction.  You can also donate to the main camp at Standing Rock, the Oceti Sakowin Camp.  Most important, pray.  On December 4th, you can join a unified time of prayer with Standing Rock.   This is a movement that is bathed in prayer.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

Find her previous blog postings about Standing Rock

Official website and place to donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.    

 

Peaceful and Prayerful Resistance

15036413_10209017494888890_8774934413189935061_n

Nonviolence Guidelines at Standing Rock.

In my last post, I wrote about the nonviolent action my friends and I participated in at Standing Rock, and about how we were arrested, separated, and taken to different jails.  My next post will be about my experiences in jail, as people have requested.  Today, though, I’m writing about the importance of the struggle for justice and healing that is taking place there.

The courage of the water protectors in the face of historic and current oppression is inspiring people around the world, and people are joining in to support their struggle in many ways.  The struggle continues to intensify as the water protectors refuse to back down, even as they prepare for snow and frigid temperatures.  Day by day, more allies are coming to join in the work.

Last Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers clearly stated that the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) cannot legally proceed without further study and consultation with the tribe and with government agencies.  This is an apparent victory.  But Energy Transfer Partners continues to work night and day.  As of last Tuesday, the company had moved horizontal drilling equipment on to their fenced off drilling pad near Lake Oahu.  Law enforcement continues to harass water protectors and protect DAPL work.  Meanwhile, the pipeline project is in financial jeopardy, with contracts for oil delivery set to expire in January if the pipeline doesn’t go through.

Will Energy Transfer Partners stop construction or will they go forward illegally, hoping to simply be fined?  Will the Obama administration step in and enforce its temporary prohibition on routing the pipeline under the Missouri River?  That would be unusual, since the federal government has not historically protected Indigenous rights.

What about a Trump Administration?  Trump is invested in DAPL.  The CEO of Energy Partner Transfers, Kelcy Warren, contributed to Trump’s presidential campaign, and claims that once Trump is in office, the pipeline will be a sure thing.

The only hope I see in in the “power of the people” standing together in resistance to the institutional Powers that seek to ignore the sacred value of the water, air, land, and life itself, all for the sake of profit.  The institutions and systems based on the primacy of the market (that is, money), have left the waters, land, and atmosphere polluted, and have left people unable to sustain themselves and without hope.

Many people have been seeing this and have been working hard, trying to turn it around.  With climate change alone, we are reaching the end of the road.  With the election of Trump, many more people are recognizing the bankruptcy of the current system, which only exists by the consent of the people.  When we go along and enjoy the benefits of the current system, consider it normal, and close our eyes to historical and current injustices, we contribute to the problem.  When enough of us withdraw our consent, the system cannot stand.

Not all of us can go to Standing Rock, nor do we need to.  But each of us can do something.  Those of us who are committed to justice already know that we need to stand in solidarity with the many groups of people who are being targeted by hate groups emboldened by Trump’s election.   Indigenous people may help to lead us out of the present darkness, and to discover what it means to live in peaceful and prayerful resistance to oppressive Powers.  After all, they have been resisting for over five hundred years.

By joining as allies with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, not only at Standing Rock but also in our own regions, we can gain insight into who we are and what changes we need to make.  By listening and learning we can begin to understand how “settler-colonial” attitudes and behaviors have shaped us and what we can do to turn that around.  By taking a stand as allies in Indigenous struggles to protect the air, land, and water, we may learn what it means to live as human beings in harmony with the earth, from people who did so for millennia on this continent.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.   Find previous blog postings about Standing Rock here.  

 Official website and place to donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.    

 Articles:

Suddenly Time—and the Oil Market—are on the Side of the Standing Rock Sioux:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/suddenly-time-is-on-the-side-of-the-standing-rock-sioux-20161117

Obama Administration Halts Work on Dakota Access Pipeline: http://247wallst.com/energy-business/2016/09/10/obama-administration-halts-work-on-dakota-access-pipeline/

Dakota Access is in Financial Jeopardy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1595421937418090/1623319824628301/?notif_t=group_activity&notif_id=1479573200580003

CEO confident Dakota Access Pipeline will be completed under Trump presidency: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dakota-access-pipeline-energy-transfer-partners-ceo-kelcy-warren-breaks-silence/

Arrested at Standing Rock

15109556_1848147365420650_3297536437233257551_n

Tonight (Wednesday), I am finally home and posting my first report about my experiences at Standing Rock.  Of the nine of us who traveled from Nevada County to North Dakota, four of us were arrested on Friday morning for a nonviolent action of resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  The others participated in other actions and/or served as our support.

We went to Standing Rock in response to a call put out by water protectors for people to come who were experienced in nonviolent direct action.  It seemed to us like a critical time, since the pipeline now reaches almost to the edge of Lake Oahe, where Energy Transfer Partners plans to install it under the Missouri River.  The struggle was heating up and we are trained in nonviolent action, so we piled ourselves, our stuff, and some items to donate into three cars and drove to Standing Rock to lend our support as allies to the Indigenous water protectors.  We wanted to stand in solidarity with those who have resisted for so long, have suffered so much, and have so much to teach us about how to live as human beings in a prayerful, peaceful, and non-exploitive way.   Even during the week I was there, I discovered “colonial-settler” personality patterns in myself that had been unconscious until then.   And I’m sure I have much more to learn.

When we arrived on Tuesday, we were willing to do whatever was needed, and by Thursday afternoon it looked like we would be heading home as planned on Saturday morning without engaging in nonviolent action.  But as it turned out, on Friday morning we had the opportunity to join with Indigenous water protectors and other allies, including clergy, in an action blocking access to pipeline construction equipment.  Around 9:30 a.m. we drove a long way out a country road, where over thirty of us locked arms in a formation across the road.  We held a banner that said “Mini Wichoni, Stop DAPL, Water is life,” and sang “Like a tree planted by the waters, we shall not be moved.”  We didn’t know whether the police would disperse us with tear gas, pepper spray, or rubber bullets, but we stood together, strong and committed.

Before long, police came and arrested us.  I will post Janie’s video of the action here.  They put us in handcuffs, loaded some of us into a paddy wagon and put some of us on a bus, then delivered us to Morton County Jail in Mandan.  They took off our handcuffs and put us in 9’ by 18’ cages in the garage, the men in one cage and the women in another.  Other people were brought in from other actions later that day, and we ended up with twenty-two women in our cage.  (It seemed to me that these cages had been erected for demonstrators, but the poster with breeds of dogs on the wall did seem peculiar.)  Here is a Democracy Now! interview with Tara Houska, who was arrested later in the day and put in with us in the cage in Mandan.  Tara had worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign.

At around 4:30 we were give a bag lunch that included an apple, the only fruit I would see for the next few days.  I was then taken with three others to Burleigh County Jail in Bismarck.  By 8:30 p.m. we had been separated, strip-searched, and put in different dorms with the general population.  No one told me what my charges were until my arraignment on Monday:  Interfering with a government function, a class A misdemeanor, subject to 1 year in jail and a $3,000 fine.   (We may have been interfering with a corporate function, but a government function?)  I pleaded not guilty.  At that point, the Red Owl Legal Collective paid our bail.

I didn’t know what happened to others until I got out of jail on Monday night, but I know now that after sitting for hours in the cages in Mandan, people were taken to jails in five different counties.   Janie, Christy, and six others sat on a bus handcuffed for over four hours and were finally dropped off at the jail in Fargo.  They didn’t get checked into their dorms until 4 a.m.

After I got released Monday evening, I also learned that mass actions had continued throughout the weekend and into this week, and that mass arrests were not taking place because they didn’t have the resources to deal with so many demonstrators.  I was glad to have taken up some of that space, and heartened by the continuing resistance.

There’s so much more to say, especially because news about the pipeline and resistance actions are moving so quickly.  I will be posting about this for the next several days.  For now, I will quote Tara Houska, who worked with Bernie Sanders on his campaign.  She said, “Working for Bernie Sanders was a great honor and privilege to be in a role in his campaign and to contribute to that, but also to see grassroots mobilization and the power of the people. Millions and millions of people voted for Senator Sanders. And, you know…the Dakota Access pipeline resistance is millions of people around the world coming together and trying to stop this single project, but also to make a stand about the relationship of people to fossil fuels, about indigenous rights, about all these issues.”

I, too, have hope in grassroots mobilization and the power of the people.  I’ll post again tomorrow.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.   The Facebook page will also include important updates about Standing Rock. 

 Find Sharon’s previous blog postings about Standing Rock.  

 More about Standing Rock: 

 Official website and place to donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.    

 Democracy Now is covering this action on a daily basis. 

 More about the Dakota Access Pipeline

 

 

A Day at Oceti Sakowin Camp

getting-oriented-at-camp

We started today (as every day) with a council that began and ended with prayer in the big geodesic dome. We affirmed our agreements, received updates on the pipeline, and heard offers and requests for help in the camp, especially with the winterizing efforts–a huge job.  It was emphasized that no drugs or alcohol are to be “on or in” anyone at the camp, since the goal is to hold a prayerful and peaceful space. People referred to the election of Donald Trump and their concerns about its implications for this struggle and for Indigenous people and others. We also learned that within a few days the Justice Department should issue a ruling about whether construction of the pipeline needs to stop while a proper Environmental Impact Report is created.  Meanwhile the pipeline is almost to the banks of the Missouri River.  Right here.

There is also a newcomers’ orientation each day, where individuals are given basic orientation and can ask questions. Four hundred newcomers to camp have been oriented since we arrived three days ago, and they keep coming. Thousands of people are here.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe have put out a call and people have responded. This means that many people are arriving at camp who are not familiar with Indigenous ways and who may think and act in ways that express “white settler mentality.” We are encouraged to have respect for the elders and for the people who live here and to remember that we are guests. They thank us for being here and for responding to the call.

I have met people from all over the world, including a Canadian man names Yves who brought the Mongolian yurts that have been set up over the past few days. (Sold at cost and paid for by people like you who have donated to the camp.  To make direct donations go to paypal.me/OcetiSakowinCamp) I have also met people from Alaska, Hawaii, and all over the United States and from countries that include France, Russia, Canada, Colombia, and Australia.

Today an Indigenous women’s group from Alaska entered the camp, and we listened to them about the damage to their ecosystems and why they had come to be in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock in the struggle to protect the waters of the Missouri River. I was in tears, listening to their stories and hearing their commitment to protect the air, land, and waters, and as they sang and prayed and as we walked through the line greeting each of them personally.

People here are encouraged to get involved with necessary chores, and there are cooperative tasks going on all over the camp. I spent time today with my friends Shirley and Jill hauling and stacking wood for the sacred fire, then washing dishes. There are seven kitchens that each serve two or three meals a day. Teams of people are erecting yurts and other buildings. Large winterized meeting spaces are being created that will also be available for people to gather to sleep in when temperatures drop, which is expected to happen soon. Composting toilets are being planned for, as well as many other projects.

There was a discussion and planning meeting at 4 p.m. related to upcoming nonviolent actions. We’re meeting early tomorrow morning for a possible action. We’ll see. I will keep you informed. Again, I can’t take photographs in the camp at all, and even the pictures I share from our media people are strictly limited in what they can portray, for the protection and privacy of the people.

I have received many messages of support, and I thank you.  Keep the faith.  We must continue the struggle for a peaceful, just, and ecologically sustainable world.

Love and blessings to you all.

On Our Way to Standing Rock

on-the-way-to-standing-rock

Here we are having lunch at a park in Rawlins, Wyoming, on our way to Standing Rock.  Tonight my good friends and I are staying in Spearfish, South Dakota, planning to get up early so we can check in at the camp in time for the nonviolence training at 2 p.m. tomorrow.  We are ready to do what we can.

I recently read This is an Uprising, How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century, by Paul and Mark Engler.  They write about the “whirlwind,” those times in history when things come together in a new way that makes possible what seemed impossible before.  Standing Rock is such a time.  Many people around the world are recognizing that respecting the rights of Indigenous people and learning from them about honoring the creation are at the center of what needs to happen if we are to get through this historic time in a way that leaves hope for a habitable planet.

I’m here for the sake of the children and for future generations.   Ready to enter the whirlwind.