Orcas Islander Jan Ehrlichman volunteered two weeks ago at the Standing Rock Reservation, where an estimated 4,000 people were gathering in opposition to the 1,172-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. Protestors call themselves water protectors.
“It was really incredible,” said Ehrlichman, who attended prayer camp meetings each morning.
Leaders explained that everything you do at the camp is prayer.
“To be in a group of spiritually mindful people is really incredible,” Ehrlichman added.
On Nov. 25, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an eviction notice to tribal members by Dec. 5. According to the New York Times, the corps stated that eviction is due to “violent confrontations” and risks of serious injury due to the “harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”
The notice came after a string of reports that Morton County Sheriff’s deputies used extreme methods such as using rubber bullets, mace and water on demonstrators who were just outside the camp.
Orcas Islander Victory Lonnquist has been posting videos on Facebook describing the police brutality against those gathered at the reservation.
“I have never experienced anything like that before it,” said Lonnquist, describing a tear gassing in a Nov. 21 video post, which has received 193,000 views. “My whole world was closing in. I couldn’t breathe and my eyes were burning.”
As a firefighter, she was able to help treat people who were “bleeding profusely” from rubber bullets.
Lonnquist, Ehrlichman and her husband Mark Mayer were three of many islanders who have volunteered at Standing Rock.
According to the Journal’s research, at least six Lopezians, two San Juan Islanders and 10 Orcas Islanders have been to Standing Rock.
The group Orcas Stands with Standing Rock has raised $2,500 so far, and the Barnacle is donating funds if you purchase a SR Island Hoppin’ beer. The group has weekly meetings at the library. To get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org or find the Orcas Stands with Standing Rock group on Facebook, which has more than 150 members.
Orcas Islanders are organizing a walkout in solidarity with the Standing Rock movement and in part of Global Day of Action on Dec. 1 at 11 a.m. at the Village Green.
Ehrlichman said when she visited, the balance of the camp had shifted to a higher population of non-indigenous people. All peaceful protestors are welcome, but leaders made it clear that Standing Rock is not a festival.
The focus has been to winterize the camp, serving food and organizing donations. Volunteers also can go out on “actions,” which are peaceful protests occurring at certain times. When Ehrlichman was at Standing Rock she said police threatened to use rubber bullets and mace, but did not.
About 100 people were coming to Standing Rock each day, but on her last day Ehrlichman was told there were 300 new arrivals at the camp.
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Lonnquist in a video post. “Thanks for the youth that started the movement and the elders for guiding us all.”
To get involved, donate directly to www.standingrock.org, or the www.ocetisakowincamp.org.
The Islands’ Sounder and Journal of the San Juans are donating $5 from every new subscription to the “Orcas Stands with Standing Rock” group through Dec. 31. Subscriptions are $40 a year. Call 376-4500 for information.