Report from Standing Rock: Wounded Knee Kitchen, Oceti Sakowin Camp

Categories Energy, Environment, Protest

David Guthrie, of South Bend, Indiana, has been updating his Facebook friends and followers on what he’s been seeing and learning at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

Guthrie has been camping and working at the Wounded Knee Kitchen in the Wild Oglala Camp, one of the many camps that make up the larger Oceti Sakowin camp. “Jane Fonda’s serving a feast nearby,” Guthrie reported on November 24, while his camp was observing Thanksgiving by fasting.

Posts come from Guthrie in bursts, depending on when he gets to internet in nearby ‘Babylonian’ places that offer wi-fi, like the Target cafe in Mandan, North Dakota. Here, posted with permission, is an amalgamation of updates from Guthrie put up within a couple hours on the evening of November 27 into November 28, along with some photographs he posted on November 2.

Bathing at the Dakota Access pipeline protests. Uploaded to Facebook Nov. 2, 2016. Photo: David Guthrie
Bathing at the Dakota Access pipeline protests. Uploaded to Facebook Nov. 2, 2016. Photo: David Guthrie

November 28

*brrrr*

November 27

A white birch tree came in to the Wounded Knee Kitchen’s wood cutting station. I carved it up with a hydraulic splitter, taking care to keep all the bark.

I’d learned in Vermont, earlier this year, that you can start a fire in the rain with white birch. Peel the bark, revealing a dry side, and light it – it burns hot, fast and (for its weight) quite long.

I set the larger pieces aside; the boys an’ I have been building model tipis, using chopsticks or BBQ skewers – now we’re approaching Algonkian-speaking and Haudenashone camps and asking someone to teach us to make model canoes.

****

I spied a Homeland Security vehicle in Bismark, a couple days before the Army Corps of Engineers issued their Eviction Notice. I’d wager the NSA is monitoring communications now. Border Patrol has also been spotted joining the War Camp to the north. I have assurances that the National Guard is part of it (acting under the governor), but I’ve not seen it yet myself.

I miss South Bend. I miss every bit of it – every bit except that hideous, ugly, faux building that wrecks the beautiful view of the east race – that damned AM General HQ.

There’s an awful lotta hummers, over there in the War Camp.

****

The Legal Narrative is running amok, setting the stage for another genocidal massacre.

It is the humansong that carries that determines the future behavior of any population.

There’s still time to prevent it. Sing.

Silence will be filled with Nonsense, so find your Voice and Speak!

There were seven fires in camp last night. Rushed one tipi with fire extinguishers. I have a fire extinguisher and a carbon monoxide detector in the tent that’s come under my care; we could surely use more of these in camp.

****

The Haudenashonee, the Five Nations… the Iroquois, Snake Eaters… the central nation is known as ‘Keepers of the Fire.’

The Potowatomi, an Algonkian speaking peoples, are known as ‘Keepers of the Flame.’

The Oceti Sakowin is the Lakota people’s Seven Council Fires.

I myself am an innkeeper by trade; and I’ve come to take that role for a structure with 11 cots. Concierge, as I understand it, translates to ‘Keeper of the Candles.’

Fire is Sacred.

‘Sacred’ describes an obligation to stewardship.

I myself do not recognize land ownership; only occupation and stewardship.

The people in camp believe truly that they have a sacred duty to prevent the pipeline, as allowing it would be a failure to be good stewards for the land they’ve known as their own as long as this culture remembers.

Addendum in the comments:

Rarely, I believe, did Native persons start a fire by using flint or friction; hot coals would migrate in the care of trained persons. If you are camped near a sacred fire, you would borrow coals from it.

****

Snow in Cannonball. It’ll be at Oceti in minutes.

The Lakota are a warrior society, know for their gracious hospitality – and a common human desire to feel heard.

They do not feel heard.

On the road at the Dakota Access pipeline protests. Uploaded to Facebook Nov. 2, 2016. Photo: David Guthrie
On the road at the Dakota Access pipeline protests. Uploaded to Facebook Nov. 2, 2016. Photo: David Guthrie

In response to questions, Guthrie posted the following in the same thread over several comments:

I’ve yet to see any weapons in camp. Many front-line warriors have been developing their defensive capability – improvised shields, bees wax on exposed skin, gas mask (which isn’t actually the ideal, for tear gas – which is actually a suspended liquid), goggles, visor, helmet, padding, tarps and ponchos …

Morton County Sheriff has been employing violent ‘less lethal’ (as in, ‘less lethal than a bullet, but still potentially life threatening’) against us for some time, and there have /not/ been reprisals. A ‘tit for tat’ strategy has been avoided, in favor of Prayer (a western word that’s been slapped over that practice that pre-dates the white man’s arrival – somewhere between song, reverence, focus and meditation).

If we avoid the (fallacious) supposition that the Sheriff has ‘Authority’ (such that we have a moral duty, an obligation to obey their command), it becomes clear that the Governor’s Goons are guilty of violence and escalation at every step.

In the old days, the use of an Agent Provocateur was common for strike-breakers. Bring in a riot squad, square off with the picket line, then have a spy on the other side throw a rock, satisfying the soldiers rules of engagement and initiating a legal slaughter.

I’ve not myself seen any Agents Provocateur. I have seen black block protesters, red warriors, and a few other individuals react to the oppression facing them as they are being evicted from their camps. I myself am a pacifist – I’ve thrown my last punch – but I’ve been looking for some time for a word to describe a person that adopts the ‘non-aggression principle.’ Which is to say, a word to describe someone that will not initiate violence – but will meet it with violence in self-defense.

That unnamed position is popularly regarded as ethical and lawful. It is the default position of (in my view) a majority of persons I meet. One ought not hold it against any Native Person if they too adopt this position and, adopting it, resist when they are attacked …

The role of the Agent Provocateur has not been eliminated; it’s been automated. When protesters approach the War Party Phalanx, there is no opportunity for conversation. They address us through a bullhorn, and nothing in their operating algorithm allows for conversation or active listening. They deploy their force – water cannons, tear gas (launched by grenades – one hit my boot, about a week ago), pepper spray (from a canister that looks like and behaves similar to a fire extinguisher), and they employ a high-decibel directed sound cannon.

The effect of this on any population is to elevate cortisol and adrenalin levels, shutting down the frontal lobe and sparking a fight-or-flight response.

The constant helicopters and airplanes (flying without lights) overhead at night have the effect of a deliberate psych-up, undermining our sleep and keeping us on edge.

The wave after wave of loving friends coming back from the line injured is sapping our morale.

The uncertainty of the next two weeks is a heavy burden. I’m not used to being completely flummoxed.

Peace can still be had, but we must work fast. Or rather, you must work fast. The Camp doesn’t have adequate connection to address all the persons that must be addressed.

****

The Black Hills Gold Rush, as I understand it, began not with US Army hunting Lakota, but with independent prospectors seeking fortune. The Lakota were unhappy with their presence, but the Federal Government felt no obligation to do anything to prevent US Citizens from crossing the boarder into the Great Sioux Nation and exploiting its resources. Over time, the white population in the area grew, and the Feds took it upon themselves to protect those prospectors.

This is the same situation, in their eyes.

****

The camp’s really come together this past week. Many structures. It’s a bit of a World’s Fair, the amount of tiny-home tech I’m seeing. Everything is being demo’d, tested and evaluated. Frankly, it’s a shame there isn’t a tech giant offering to do inventory and logistics – there’s opportunity here for massive efficiency gains, and the camp is a *perfect* laboratory (pronounced ‘luh boar uh tore ee’).

It’d be a sin to turn these people out. We’d lose a huge opportunity, clearing the camp.

Winter is here. Just got word there’s snow in Mandan.

United Nations observers at protests against Dakota Access pipeline. Uploaded to Facebook Nov. 2, 2016. Photo: David Guthrie
United Nations observers at protests against Dakota Access pipeline. Uploaded to Facebook Nov. 2, 2016. Photo: David Guthrie

Find Guthrie on Facebook and he may be reached by mail – preferably with Snickers bars – at

c/o Leprechaun
Wounded Knee Kitchen
P.O. box 122
Solen, ND 58570

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Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.
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