Updated: Jan 1, 2021
This is the first article in a series written by Bearcat. We have published her work in the past. Click here to read her other work.
But please be advised: If you came here expecting a peaceful prayer warrior that will tell you all about how love won on the frontlines of Standing Rock so you can make a Facebook post that tells “anarchists and antifas” that, “THIS is how TRUE Americans protest to make changes!” — then you came to the wrong place!
Autumn was beginning to set in and the morning air was crisp; though, the afternoons were still that delicious gold that makes you think of apple orchards and seeing your crush again on the first day of school. I slowly climbed a grassy hill that was as foreign to me as I was to it. I brought tobacco with me so I could introduce myself properly and water to send up my morning prayers. Neither that hill nor I knew that in a few short months, we’d both bear witness to some heartbreaking shit that would require gentle time and harsh ceremony for us to make it through one season to the next.
My partner-in-crime, Sal, and I had timidly asked the kid manning the front gate if it was ok to climb the hillside overlooking the Oceti Sakowin camp. It was our first morning there. Sal and I arrived just a few hours earlier around 4 a.m. Exhausted, we had opted to crash in the van instead of fighting with our tent, the dark and each other.
I’d never been to North Dakota before. Never taken part in a multi-day protest or experienced a resistance camp, either. I didn’t know what to expect but I figured, I know how to camp, I can make fire, I can catch fish (ok, I have caught fish...but it had been awhile) so, I’d probably be alright! And with that, I jumped in a van packed with strangers and one acquaintance and made the four state trip to the middle of fucking nowhere. And I was alright with that, in fact, I enjoyed the journey. Creator knew I needed to get out of the city for awhile, life had become stale and was beginning to refresh.
As we neared the top of this morning hill, more eager to catch cell service and update statuses than anything, I didn’t have the slightest inclination that this would be the moment that would begin the next phase of my life. One that would bring together so many loose ends of a previously raggedy life story while simultaneously pulling at the seams of my sanity until I quit fighting and let my life fall apart, willingly.
Whoa, THAT description is a little dramatic...but also pretty damn apt. I didn’t know how to open this series or which direction to move but if I’ve learned anything in the past four years, it’s that the medicine is in the resolution. Meaning, we don’t have to have all the answers before we begin — sometimes the answer IS the journey.
Since waking up on my first day at Oceti, I daydreamed about all the ways that I could describe what I saw, translate what I experienced and wrap up the knowledge gained with a literary bow, dazzling enough to entice readers to truly invest. In the end though, all I bring you is this truth. Because I’m grateful that I’ve managed to hang onto it despite the PTSD trauma, general fuckery of “becoming woke” and all the damage that assorted colonial violence will do to a person’s ability to communicate. And I’m proud. Not only did I retain my memories of the events that took place in the fall of 2016 along the banks of the Cannonball River but I have also maintained my integrity to be able to address it. Now, that might not sound like much to you but a majority of the people that I met or shared space with at camp cannot say the same.
So, to the real Stronghearts, I still pray for your health and well-being every day. I think of you when I put my spirit plate out. I still stand with you, and I’ll fight with you or for you — whatever it is you need... But to the ones who can no longer speak credibly because they chose to abuse the medicine they were entrusted with, those that chose to sell out for clout or money or whatever it is they got in the moment and those that weren’t even THERE yet somehow cashed in off books and speaking fees talking about a resistance that their passive asses aren’t even a part of: Y’all can go fuck yourselves. (Quietly though, please. We don’t need any more of your noise pollution.)
See, as much as this series will detail the experiences of a frontline warrior who stood face-to-face with more than five law enforcement agencies in full riot gear, the national guard and private mercenaries (who were all former special forces) — and as much as this series may describe what it was like to live in a concentration camp surrounded by stadium lights, under constant surveillance by equipment so high-tech that it was still in its testing phase, while experiencing outright acts of war that have only (and will only) be committed against Indigenous Peoples (yes, I am aware of what Portland has experienced throughout the 2020 protests but no, it is nowhere near the level of atrocity that occurred at Standing Rock) — what I can contribute today, four rough years later is none the less medicine. My journey. From a liberalized simp to a radicalized...person. (Haha, you thought I was gonna say “pimp,” huh? Cuz it rhymes with “simp”! Yeah? NO. We don’t play that weak capitalistic predatory bullshit around here. Lol...) And it all started on that day, after I huffed and puffed my way up that smallish hill (that should definitely not have impacted my ability to breathe but whatevs.)
I turned and took my first look out over the quiet valley that I would call home for the next three months and literally cried because it was so beautiful. I cried as I looked at the tents and tipi’s nestled down by the river, thinking about my nieces and nephews. I thought, if our youth and babies could only see through my eyes right now — see how many people will choose to leave the comforts of their homes and come out here to fight for their right to live, for their right to have the most basic of necessities; maybe, they wouldn’t be killing themselves at the rate they do. I cried as I looked out to a land with prairie grass, rolling hills, little creeks leading into a smooth flowing river that bounces the sun rays off its surface like it could never be silenced or even challenged. I thought, who in their right mind could take a look at this sight and even ENTERTAIN a thought of disturbing it?! It’s not even possible! How sick would you have to be… I cried because it was then that I clearly understood that this was not a pipeline protest, this was spiritual warfare. And I began to realize why I had been called there.
So now that I’ve caught your attention, we may as well get some housekeeping taken care of. I published a piece last year with The GroundUp; though, I did not touch on camp much because the reality of the situation is that the state didn’t care that we stayed in prayer and stood for a righteous cause. And even though they couldn’t really decide on what to label us so they could address us, they decided to treat us as jihadists. Yes, they literally called us jihadists within internal communications, which were later dug up and exposed by The Intercept. After all that we had experienced on the ground, all the shady shit, all the acts of war committed by state actors and governmental agencies under the “observation” of Amnesty International who came to stand around in matching yellow jackets, we know the truth. Jihadist, ecoterrorist, merciless Indian savage, all of those things hold more prestige than tiggerswan (purposeful misnaming).
To be clear, tiggerswan is the most morally corrupt, embarrassingly scandalous and elementary ass security company that big oil could buy. According to the documents, the tiggers created this terrorist narrative within their daily reports back to enbridge, the pipeline corporation responsible for the Dakota access pipeline, in order to continue siphoning contract money. On one hand, my cold little anti-capitalist heart is delighted with their exploitation of any corporation. Especially Big Oil! But on the other hand, it’s still fuck these mercs. Anyway, up until a few months ago there were still pending court cases and we had seen that many of the charges filed by the state were heavily based on social media posts. Yes, social media posts made by random individuals and other “sources” that wouldn’t be considered acceptable to cite in an English 101 paper at your mom’s favorite community college, yet somehow they manage to build cases in North Dakota. It is a strange place, indeed. In addition to the legal aspect, there was (and still is) the fact that when you partake in resistance work, if you’re being at all effective, you will be monitored and your data will be collected. In order to watch out for ourselves and each other, we have to be aware of this and it’s for this reason that this series will not be written in the typical investigative journalist style.
I am not bound by a professional reputation, resume, or paycheck (although, to be fair, I am receiving a small monetary contribution in exchange for taking the time to sit and write this; though, it is nothing to retire on so I’ve had to put my Lambo on layaway :( ). I’ve already put my classroom time in and paid the cost to be the boss, all I got was this shitty degree that really doesn’t mean much after you become a corporate and non-profit whistleblower. (So, yeah, don’t do that if you want to like, have money and food and stuff…)
I will not be adhering to any traditional format, or citing academic journals or listing my professional colleagues as verified sources. If this is an issue for you, well, then you’re probably not ready or suited to partake in this knowledge anyway, and I wish you well.
As for the rest of you, dear readers, you’re welcome to come have a sit. I’ll tell you about my experience living in a frontline resistance camp at Oceti Sakowin and how becoming “woke” was actually rude as fuck. But please be advised: If you came here expecting a peaceful prayer warrior that will tell you all about how love won on the frontlines of Standing Rock so you can make a Facebook post that tells “anarchists and antifas” that, “THIS is how TRUE Americans protest to make changes!” — then you came to the wrong place! You’ve been warned... Now, I don’t wanna hear any crying when your wagons goin up in flames in the parking lot. Cuz I’m not the girl next door, I’m that chick up the street — and these are the Memoirs of a Bearcat.