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Standing Rock turns into a gathering place

Courtesy Gail Chamberlain, Konwenni Jacobs

Another wave, so to speak, of Onkwehón:we from the north arrived this week at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where protectors of the land have been pepper-sprayed, attacked by security and dogs, and continue to build up support from across Turtle Island against a $3.8 billion pipeline.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has attracted, according to two people who are there whom The Eastern Door spoke to, a few media (including the New York Times), with representation from close to 200 Onkwehón:we nations.

“It feels like I’ve been here for weeks but only arrived yesterday,” said Gail Chamberlain, who is from Wikwemikong but lives in Montreal.

Courtesy Gail Chamberlain, Konwenni Jacobs
Courtesy Gail Chamberlain, Konwenni Jacobs

Chamberlain and Kahnawa’kehró:non Konwenni Jacobs arrived late Tuesday.

“I have the sentiment that this is where I’m supposed and meant to be, and I’m in complete disbelief and grateful that I get to be here! It’s like a huge family gathering,” she said.

Both ladies changed plans to come back north, and are staying for at least a few more days.

“It’s a well organized community,” said Chamberlain. “There are six food tents, a medical centre, a gathering place, and media area.”

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Courtesy Gail Chamberlain, Konwenni Jacobs

In addition, there is an area for prayers that is completely off limits to photos.

People who arrive every day are welcomed with open arms and the numbers are swelling.

The duo, along with a male passenger, Jeffrey Papatie, took 34 hours to get there.

“We were welcomed and given rules of no weapons or alcohol and there was the fire and people sitting around,” said Jacobs.

“I met a man when I was looking around near the kitchen. I told him we just got there and asked him some questions then he offered us to stay in a teepee for the night till we set up our stuff. He made us a fire,” she said.

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Courtesy Gail Chamberlain, Konwenni Jacobs

Guards for those opposed to a pipeline on Sioux land volunteer and switch off regularly, to keep an eye out for overzealous security from the other side.

North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple has activated the National Guard, 37 arrests have been made so far, and two Mohawk Council of Kahnawake chiefs are going to Standing Rock in the coming days.

Chamberlain said an abundance of food and water allowed her to purchase other things needed for the camp.

“I purchased a ton of rechargeables for phones and computers since everyone is always looking for a place to charge their devices,” she said.

Both got there by fundraising through a half and half draw and by selling squares – all of which sold really well to a community eager for news, and a peaceful outcome.

“The energy of standing together is strong once you get here,” said Chamberlain. “Everyone remains longer than they planned.”

steveb@easterndoor.com
Steve Bonspiel
Eastern Door Editor/Publisher Steve Bonspiel started his journalism career in January 2003 with The Nation magazine, a newspaper serving the Cree of northern Quebec. Since that time, he has won numerous regional and national awards for his in-depth, impassioned writing on a wide variety of subjects, including investigative pieces, features, editorials, columns, sports, human interest and hard news. He has freelanced for the Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, Windspeaker, Nunatsiaq News, Calgary Herald, Native Peoples Magazine, and other publications. Among Steve's many awards is the Paul Dumont-Frenette Award for journalist of the year with the Quebec Community Newspapers Association in 2015, and a back-to-back win in 2010/11 in the Canadian Association of Journalists' community category - one of which also garnered TED a short-list selection of the prestigious Michener award. He has also been Quebec Community Newspapers Association president since 2012 and continues to strive to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities for a better understanding of each other.
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