In November of 2016, a delegation of the Justice and Compassion Essential Ministries Team comprised of representatives including Alex Montances, Nan McCurdy, and Miguel, visited Standing Rock.
The purpose of the delegation was to stand with Standing Rock Sioux, Native Americans, and other water protectors who opposed the Dakota Access pipeline from being built on Ancestral land and over an important water source.
The following is Part One which is testimony from Alex Montances about his journey with others from the Long Beach and Los Angeles area:
“When we arrived at Oceti Sakowin in ND, we were surprised at the size of the camp. In the middle of a flat and monotonous landscape, the camp of over 10,000 people stood out. We saw tents, teepees, cars, RVs, and people all over the camp. An amazing site!
“We immediately set up camp and tried to understand and navigate the maze of tents, centers, roads, and trails throughout the camp.
“That first day, we set up camp and cooked our food over a small BBQ grill. We had to reinforce the tent with blankets, jackets, and tarp in order to protect ourselves from cold weather that night which would reach below zero.
“We found the center of the camp – the Sacred Fire. This is where the elders gathered and announcements were made across the camp. We weren’t allowed to take pictures there due to the customs and sacred traditions. However, a large contingent of young native water protectors rode into camp on horses.
“When we gathered around the Sacred Fire, a delegation of Native women and allies marched into camp carrying banners, quilts and signs. They were the Native women of Standing Rock who were marching to protect the water and their community. They spoke of the need to heal from the traumas of violence, abuse, drugs, alcohol, stalking, sexual assault and other issues Native women and children face. They said that in Native culture it’s a matriarchal society, but that after colonization things changed. They were calling on Native men to understand the effects of violence and drugs on women, children, and the community. They were calling on Native men to be accountable, and to really protect and take care of Women and children and their communities.
“Native Women led a march to the bridge and the police barricade. They were calling on the police to leave the camp, and to remember that Water is Sacred and that this was their ancestral land. After singing, chanting, and giving their demands they dispersed peacefully. The delegation members later walked up to a hill to see the entire camp.
“At night, all six of us slept together in one tent. We used body heat to keep us warm. The sunset was beautiful in North Dakota.
“Our plan was to leave Nov. 28, Monday morning. We had heard that a snow storm was coming, but had no internet or phone signal below in camp. We sent a member to go up to Facebook hill to check internet and weather. The Weather report was grim, that a 3-day snowstorm would hit at 10 p.m. that night of Nov 27. We decided to leave early that night before the snow storm and donate our goods, monetary donations, and supplies to the camp. We spent the next few hours delivering $800 in monetary donations, jackets, blankets, winter clothing, prayers and letters from First UMC Wilmington Youth group and other goods to the Oceti Sakowin camp and Native organizers. We left just in time before the snow hit and were well into Utah when we ran into snow.
“It was truly a blessing to be a part of the Cal-Pac JCEMT delegation from Long Beach and Los Angeles who went to support Standing Rock and the NoDAPL movement. My team included Arjuna, Maribel, Alicia, Alex, Jonathan, and Claudia.”
Part Two will be posted here shortly.