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Standing Rock: Come Help, Come Prepared: an Interview with Dawn Neptune Adams

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The Army Corps of Engineers have issued a February 22 evacuation order to the Standing Rock Water Protectors, in accordance with President Trump’s executive order that the pipeline construction proceed. On February 11, I spoke with Dawn Neptune Adams, a Penobscot Native who arrived at Standing Rock on February 10. This is her third trip to support the Water Protectors.

Ann Garrison: Dawn, you just arrived at Standing Rock this morning, right? 

Dawn Neptune Adams: I arrived at about midnight.

AG: Tell us where you’re from. 

DA: I am from the Penobscot Nation and the Fisher Clan, and I live just down river from Bangor, Maine.

AG: And the Penobscot are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy? 

DA: Right. The Wabanaki Confederacy is made up of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot, and collectively we are the People of the Dawn.

AG: And that’s in the northeasternmost United States and southeasternmost Canada?

DA: Correct.

AG: So you got there at midnight last night. What do you see? 

DA: Well, I see a lot of people workin’ their butts off. At midnight we came in, dropped our sleeping bags and gear in the yurt where we’ll be staying, and went up to the Sacred Fire at the top of the hill. It’s called the Eagle’s Nest, and it’s where a group of veterans are camped. We had some hot tea in the veterans kitchen and stayed for about three hours talking with Joseph Hock, who was tending the Sacred Fire. I hadn’t seen Joseph since I was here two months ago, so it was great to give him a big hug. He has been here since August.

AG: Is he a Native American veteran?

DA: He’s Cherokee, although he lives in Michigan, which is not traditional Cherokee land. His veterans’ group is here with tools, skills, and spirit and they’re going to be building shelters and other structures and doing everything else that needs to be done to hold the camps together.

AG: The other group we’re hearing about is Veterans Stand.

DA: Veterans Stand is a group that came out on December 5. As I was leaving, I heard that there were thousands of them arriving.

AG: Stars and Stripes reports that Veterans Stand are on their way again and that they’ve vowed not to let the pipeline be built on their watch.

DA: A veteran that I spoke to this morning was from Tennessee, and he was holding a Veterans Stand flag, but he wanted everyone to know that there are a lot of veterans from many different groups, not only Veterans Stand, coming to help. Another already here is Veterans Respond. They’ll be helping with the cleanup and with moving yurts and teepees and the kitchen over at Sacred Stone Camp. They’ll be moving all that to higher ground.

AG: What’s the reason for moving it to higher ground?

DA: For one, it’s in the floodplain and it’s sure to be flooded when the 60-inch snowpack above it melts. It’s also on treaty land that belongs to the Native people here according to the Ft. Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868, but the Army Corps of Engineers is claiming it anyway.

Oceti Oyate, formerly known as Oceti Sakowin, will be totally cleaned out except – maybe – for the parts on high ground like Media Hill and the legal tent near it. Sacred Stone Camp is mostly on high ground. What needs to be moved there is the area known as Yurt Village, which is next to the Cannonball River. Everything has to be moved by February 22nd.

AG: That’s the deadline that the Army Corps of Engineers gave the Water Protectors to clear out or be forcibly evicted, isn’t it?

DA: There is an evacuation order for that day. If the yurts aren’t moved, they might be confiscated or destroyed. People are moving their homes and belongings to keep from losing them. However, that doesn’t mean that no one will be there to resist on that treaty land. There’ll be a presence there, though I’m not sure what kind. Maybe the vets.

AG: What kind of advice do you have for anyone heading to Standing Rock to help?

DA: Be prepared to survive some vicious weather. The temperature today is 38 degrees, but anyone on their way here should be prepared for it to get as harsh as 50 degrees below with wind chill.

Ice cleats are essential. One woman without ice cleats slipped and hurt her hip yesterday. You can buy ice cleats for $20 and strap them onto your shoes.

There are children here, and people are doing their best to keep them safe. A group of high school students from many tribes came to bring them toys this weekend. I brought my seven-year-old daughter with me in December, but I didn’t bring her this time because I was uncertain about safety now that the Army Corps has issued its evacuation order.

AG: Is there anything else you’d like to say? 

DA: Yes. At 4 am this morning I awoke to calls of “Fire!” One of the yurts was ablaze. I walked down to Yurt Village to see if I could help, but by the time I got there, the fire was out and no one had been harmed. On my way back to bed, I ran into a man named Romeo who was pulling a big sled filled with belongings from a yurt near the river. He was out working at 4 am!

The people who are still here are the strong ones. They’re not here to play. They have suffered through unimaginable things. And they still stand. So come help, but come prepared.

A version of this interview ran in the San Francisco Bay View.

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Ann Garrison is an independent journalist who also contributes to the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, the Black Agenda Report and the Black Star News, and produces radio for KPFA-Berkeley and WBAI-New York City.  In 2014, she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize by the Womens International Network for Democracy and Peace.  She can be reached at ann@afrobeatradio.com.

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