Read Part One – Mni Wiconi – Part One – Prelude to Standing Rock

Read Part Two – Mni Wiconi – Part Two – Protest Camps, Police Overreach, and Veterans

US military veterans were going to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Wow. I looked up Veterans Stand for Standing Rock to check it out and found their Facebook event page. Boots on the ground was to be December 4th, just over a week away. Such short notice, such a long way off in a part of the country I hadn’t been to since the 1960s.

Then I hit their gofundme page. It is still getting donations as I write this. If you want to donate to the ongoing efforts at Standing Rock (and you should), do not do it here, there are better options. Like here, Oceti Sakowin Camp. This is the official and only real web site for the Oceti Sakowin Camp and I can personally vouch that they are real and will use your money properly. There are many people cashing in on this cause, unfortunately, as well as a lot of opposition sites, Facebook pages, and gofundme appeals that are funded by the corporations and industry groups who want this pipeline to go through. It is information warfare at its finest and most insidious. This is what we are supposed to do against evil regimes, not against our own people.

Donate to Oceti Sakowin Camp

On that Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, they hadn’t hit $100K yet, but there was clearly a buzz happening. It turns out that the initial goal was 50 veterans and $50K funding for travel and supplies. The Facebook page was blowing up. It was moving very quickly. I started posting to the conversations. It was infectious, one of those things that hit a nerve at the right time and went viral, people were excited and the excitement was contagious. Lots of people out there who were frustrated at this situation with DAPL. There were a lot of veterans who wanted to do something good for the world, something not involving pushing people in other countries around at gunpoint.

The gofundme has raised over $1.1 MILLION dollars, making it one of the most funded efforts on this crowd sourcing platform ever. I was watching it just go up and up. I was obsessed with hitting the refresh button. Exponential real-time increases that just kept going.

It didn’t help that I was off work for five straight days over Thanksgiving. I had all the time in the world and was making high heat fired pizza with cold fermented dough for the holiday meal. Yes, that is what we wanted. It was unreal. Better than any pizza you can get in my town and better than turkey any day. The dough was already made and waiting. Yeah, I know I cannot shape dough. Working on it.

High heat fired pizza with cold fermented dough

Yeah, I know I can’t shape dough worth a shit. But, it tastes so good.

In the next couple of days, I checked Veterans Stand in depth and started talking to a few of the most active people I saw on the page. New friends made. There was no published leadership or organizational structure outside of the two people who started this around November 11th. Michael Wood Jr is a veteran and ex-Baltimore police office who is now a social activist speaking out about police violence. Wes Clark Jr is a veteran and son of General Wesley Clark, who has run for president. He is an environmental activist. I never met either of them. I think they had a great idea that quickly got away from them. That is all part of this story. It was one of the most positive experiences I have ever had, but it was not because of Veterans Stand in the end. It was simply fate that put me where I needed to be at this particular time.

The Operations Order (OPORD) was well written and encouraging. For a military guy, it was pretty impressive and hit all those gung ho things we soldiers love and hate at the same time. Military people live and die by OPORDS. It is how missions get accomplished and they have specific formats and sections. This one sucked me right in. Here is an excerpt:

VETERANS STAND FOR STANDING ROCK OPERATIONS ORDER | DECEMBER 4-7 2016

I. Situation – In response to the assertion of treaty rights, citizen’s rights, tribal rights, and protection of the most valuable of resources, water, the Sioux tribes and allied comrades, are under sustained assault by agents of and working for private interests under the color of law. First Americans have served in the United States Military, defending the soil of our homelands, at a greater percentage than any other group of Americans. There is no other people more deserving of veteran support and this situation encapsulates whether we are called heroes for violence and cashing paychecks or for justice and morality.

a) Opposing Forces – Morton County Sheriff’s ofIice combined with multiple state police agencies and private security contractors.

1) Composition, Disposition, Strength we will face between 500-1000 police and contractors with approximately 300 in riot gear.
2) Capabilities & Limitations – Enemy has rubber/plastic bullets, CS gas, pepper spray, and an LRAD sound cannon. They will be limited in their violence against us by US and international human rights laws, a national press presence and observers from the US Congress.
3) Most Likely Course of Action – we will likely be gassed, pepper sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, hit with batons and brieIly arrested.
4) Most dangerous Course of Action – live fire with lethal rounds.

b) Friendly Forces – Veteran and Tribal protests

1) Higher’s mission & Intent – our intent is to honor the giants on whose shoulders we stand, such as Gandhi’s salt protest or MLK’s Selma protest. In the ultimate expression of alliance, we are there to put our bodies on the line, no matter the physical cost, in complete non-violence to provide a clear representation to all Americans of where evil resides. The Water Protectors are leading the way against this same evil which we must all face globally, saving ourselves and our children from the apocalyptic outcome of climate change.
2) Adjacent Units – there will be no adjacent units. We are there to give the Sioux a breather from the abuse they’ve been taking and allow them a couple days of warrior’s respite.
3) Supporting Units – there will be civilian and tribe members watching us from behind but nobody supporting us – we are the cavalry.
4) Attachment/Detachment – Medical Detachment will be led by Aaron Mischler. If you are a trained combat medic, contact Aaron at [email address redacted]
5) Civil/Terrain Considerations – the national press will be on location filming our entire action which is why it is critical that we demonstrate discipline, resolve and bravery. This is not an action of violence, if you feel any potential for violence or antisocial behavior, do not participate in actions, contact us for resources to address that first. Anytime one of us who speaks to a camera or tweets something out, you are a representative of all of us, feel no shame in leaving that to members more experienced in that lane.

II. Mission – Our mission is to prevent progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline and draw national attention to the human rights warriors of the Sioux tribes regarding the United States lack of treaty enforcement.

And on it goes. Read the entire OPORD here.

Back to trying to figure out how to make this trip. 1700 miles by road, that is 25 hours driving straight through with multiple drivers. We were supposed to arrive at our Assembly Point in Fort Yates, North Dakota, by noon on the 4th. That means leaving no later than mid-morning on Saturday, the 3rd. And I had to work on Saturday, couldn’t ethically get out of it as I had promised to cover the shift that day. Most people I was talking to were leaving earlier than that and giving themselves a couple of days to get there.

Map to Cannon Ball from my home in South Carolina

1700 plus miles by road. I could almost go to Europe for what an airline ticket to Bismarck cost.

All I knew was that I needed to go to Standing Rock and get shot at with water cannons in subzero weather or maybe rubber bullets in the face. I needed to really fight for freedom, something I had never done when in the US Army. I needed to make a difference in the world, a positive difference. Such is the plight of an idealist.

Next, the journey begins.


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