Dinner Monday night was pure ambrosia, beef stew over rice. It was a meal to be savored. I hadn’t had any food since 5 AM and was starving. It would have been good no matter what. I slept as well as I ever do, except when I was awakened by an older woman with long grey hair that obviously had been trying to rouse me for a while. It seems I had been given her daughter’s cot pad. I am sure I looked a sight. I gave the pad to her, found another one, and went back to sleep. Both her and her daughter thanked me the next day for being so gracious. Well, it was the daughter’s pad.

In the morning, the blizzard was still going strong and I was thankful I had brought extra packs of cigarettes. No one was going anywhere without a four-wheel drive with snow tires. I ended up giving many to my less well prepared fellow addicts. You always meet people in the smoking area, a great thing for introverts. It was in the alcove at the entrance. I felt a bit sorry for the nonsmokers, but they were cool and it was brutal outside. Everyone was getting along and making an effort, it was nice to see.

One of the locals told us that you couldn’t get American Spirit cigarettes anywhere on the reservation. Hmmm. I met more people. There was John, a white guy from California. Tall and skinny, he was wearing one piece coveralls and is my age or older, he looked tired. He was the water truck guy. As I reached out my hand to shake, he held out his left hand, apologizing that he couldn’t use his right due to multiple back and shoulder surgeries and ongoing issues.


Water Truck at Oceti Sakowin Camp

Love Water purification truck at Oceti Sakowin


I later got a hug from him. The only other place I have seen more hugging amongst strangers was Grateful Dead shows. But, I digress. John was a longtime activist, having worked in sustainable living and community gardens, as well as doing some teaching as part of that work. He was one of the hardest working people I met. He had been there awhile and slept on a cot at the top of the bleachers. He had brought a water purification truck that supplied much of the water at Oceti Sakowin Camp, the Love Water Truck that had been decorated beautifully by a camp artist. He and his helpers were doing incredibly important work. I never got his last name and hope I run into him again. I don’t know how long a person can keep up the demanding pace of being a long term water protector.

The Rec Center was the logistics hub for camp. It was also the home to the camp media people, they were from everywhere and their job was to get out the camp’s message to the world. They all worked on tables in the large room by the kitchen where there was electricity and Internet. Most slept there, as well. The only outside journalist that was allowed into the Rec Center was Sandy Tolan, an LA Times writer, professor at UCLA, and ally to the camp. He has written some excellent articles, including one where he interviewed a couple of my friends. I apparently wasn’t cool enough to be interviewed. Check out his work here. Excellent writer. CNN and the like were not to be trusted and the general consensus is that media like that were only interested in the sensational aspects of the resistance, the more violent the better.


Oceti Sakowin Camp symbol

All the camp media folks had badges with this on it.

I met a few of the media folks. I took very few pictures and got very few names. I regret that, but it was that kind of trip, living in the moment and not thinking about keeping in long term touch. Two of them were professional activists that travelled to places to do their journalistic thing as a way of helping the causes they believed in. One was a French man who is north of 50-years old, another tall and lanky one with creases in his face, he had been in the trenches a long time. I can’t remember his first name. Another was one of the few black people I saw, middle aged with dreads down his back and the same lines on his face. He is a photographer and videographer. At least I got his first name, Kevin. These are some dedicated folks. If I could afford it, I would be working long term right beside them all.


There was the heavy set middle aged woman with children and her elderly mother, both natives from a state I do not associate with Indians today. Iowa, maybe. They had a chihuahua with a leg missing that protected their cot area. They were long termers and the kids went to school at Standing Rock. They had come from the camp, perhaps knowing better than many others what was going to happen when the blizzard hit. Smart move. The kids were pretty cool and no one yelled when an errant basketball hit them on the back of the head.

I was on my own at the Rec Center and, as Sunny and others had told me, I was where I was supposed to be. I needed to find something to do that would actually help the camp. With the exception of a handfull of veterans where I was, most had ended up at the Prairie Knights Casino a few miles down the road near Fort Yates. They had overwhelmed the casino. Communications was spotty, but I was in occasional texting contact with someone there, the only person associated with Veterans Stand that ever responded to texts or phone calls. More on this later, but hearing from him made me very happy I wasn’t at the Casino.


Veterans ended up at the Prairie Knights Casino

The majority of veterans ended up at the Prairie Knights Casino, overwhelming the facility


I had found a job to make myself useful that morning helping Sunny pick up donation packages from the post office, then sorting them. Both personal mail and general donation mail was coming in. It was the camp’s official address. Mail to individuals had to be set aside and safeguarded. Donations were broken down and either given to specific groups, such as the medics or camp kitchens, or categorized and made available to anyone who needed them. Lots of cold weather clothing, hand warmers, socks, and even boots were being sent.

It turned out that the post office was closed that day because of the blizzard and we finally gave up checking to see if it was open. Sunny got a day of much needed rest and I found another job in the kitchen.

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1 Comment on Mni Wiconi – Part Nine– Life at the Cannon Ball Rec Center

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