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

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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

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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

 

 

On Our Way to Standing Rock

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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.

Standing for Standing Rock

image“The Earth does not belong to man; Man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”        Chief Seattle

Anyone who is concerned about climate change or human rights ought to be paying close attention to the Standing Rock resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline taking place right now in North Dakota.  Working for climate justice does not simply mean lowering our carbon footprints or sending emails to elected officials.  It also means joining together in solidarity with people who are most vulnerable to a changing climate and those who live on lands that are threatened and polluted by extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction, transport, and refining.  Such “sacrifice zones” are often on historic Indigenous lands.

Although most people know that this country is built on a history of land theft and genocide of Native peoples, relatively few realize that the historic assault on Indigenous lands continues today.  In the United States and Canada, this often takes place through the violation of treaty rights and the exploitation of Native lands by extractive industries.  Large corporations have repeatedly violated treaty rights by extracting resources and polluting traditional lands that sustained Indigenous peoples for millennia.

Members of  more than 150 Native American tribes have joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their attempts to block the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline.  The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline would transport 470, 000 gallons of crude oil each day from the Bakken Oil Fields. Tribe members are concerned because the pipeline would travel below the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Reservation, and a pipeline accident could contaminate their water supply. Over 2,000 Indigenous people and their supporters have gathered there, and nonviolent protesters blocking construction are being arrested each day.

The United Nations has issued a statement calling on the United States government to ensure the right of the Sioux to participate in decision-making about the pipeline, since its construction would negatively impact their rights, lives, and lands. The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society and other religious groups have made statements in support of this action.  Here’s an article with background from the United Methodist News Service:  United Methodists, Native Americans Oppose Pipeline.

People around the country are sending money, transporting supplies, and engaging in solidarity demonstrations.  This climate justice struggle is ongoing.  Donate through the Standing Rock Sioux official website. To stay updated, visit and follow the Standing Rock Sioux Facebook page.   Democracy Now is covering this action on a daily basis.

In This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein wrote about the importance of supporting Indigenous struggles, such as the resistance taking place at Standing Rock.  She said, “Their heroic battles are not just their people’s best chance of a healthy future… they could very well be the best chance for the rest of us to continue enjoying a climate that is hospitable to human life.”

By taking actions in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, we take concrete steps toward repentance for historical wrongs against Indigenous peoples, including wrongs perpetuated under the banner of the cross by institutional Christianity.  By supporting their Camp of the Sacred Stone, we respond to calls to respect the rights of Indigenous nations and the rights of Mother Earth, while acknowledging the value of Indigenous teachings and Indigenous ways, regardless of our spiritual convictions or secular beliefs.

Perhaps Chief Seattle was right.  Perhaps all things really are connected.

 

You are invited to sign up to “follow” this  blog and to “like” the Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.  Updates on this action will also be posted on the Climate  Justice Action website and the Climate Justice Action Facebook page.