I've driven the narrow 2 lane 'highway' south from
Bismarck to the interstate so I can rest safely enough at the interstate's
designated rest area, which is almost as deserted as the narrow road I just
I think maybe one car passed me the whole 7 or 8 hours I
drove, and maybe a car every 10 miles came from the other direction – which was
to also be the case through South Dakota.
Trees are called 'oasis’s' here as they are so infrequent
– but houses are even more scarce than oncoming traffic. Evidence of mega-farms
abound with the huge round discs of wheat, cattle roaming in small bunches, and
the occasional horses and even less occasional sheep.
Starkly desolate comes close. The 2 lane highway, despite
the abundance of wide open land, doesn’t even have a shoulder – on either side –
which is a fact I don’t dwell on as I’m driving, nor the fact that I haven’t
seen evidence one gas station, one store, or even the lonely little ‘just-in-case’
red call box!
I rise before the sun, as is my habit, and longing to be
still at Standing Rock, I check my facebook connection, which I finally have.
With rising horror, I read the accounts of the vicious
attack on Water Protectors last night and I weep in rage and deep deep deep fury.
Even though I have witnessed first hand the hatred of white people in North
Dakota – first 47 years ago and these past couple of weeks on/towards the front
lines, I’m still so shocked.
I’ve also as a teenager and young adult, witnessed
decades ago, police using fire hoses on unarmed people – but in weather that is
below freezing??? I quickly look up the temperature at Canon Ball and see it is
19 degrees, last night it was 22 degrees.
How the fuck, how the hell, how in the name of any
fragile fragment of humanity can one human being turn water hoses onto another
human being in any weather but especially in this weather? I’m fuming, I’m
gnashing my teeth, I want to head back.
In fact, I have to marshal all my will power to not fill
up my tank and return as fast as I can to Standing Rock. I do NOT have the
funds – nor the desire – to keep buying diesel, as my veggie oil is refusing to
fuel my truck in this frigid weather.
There is no one to call even to share my anguish and
anger with: I text people I know at the camps and my east coast chosen family
but no one responds yet. It is too early to call the west coast.
So I proceed to head west and on to a freeway gas station
that is the only light in the dark Dakota nite.
The white womon behind the counter at the gas station
gets the range of my emotions and, thankfully, she has heard of the violence
and shares my anguish and disbelief.
While we are commiserating, a Native man silently
approaches us and joins in the conversation. He asks me to tell him about what
the police are doing.
As I begin to recount the rubber bullets, the tear gas,
the sound cannons, the tanks and militarized, weaponized white male bodies –
and now the water cannons – he reminds me once again that none of this is new
to his people: he and his people have been experiences these acts of violence,
and even more acts, all his life.
As we talk and he shares his experiences, I think he must
be around my age, in his 60’s. When I ask him, he astonishes me by saying he is
Ray tells me about the time the police arrested him, his
daughter, and her boyfriend, and held them in jail for weeks. He saw his
daughter being handcuffed and thrown to the ground many times, police jumping
on her back, punching her in the face – their excuse for their violence? She
had the nerve to ask about the welfare of her boyfriend, who was sent to
Ray tells me he was 5 when his mother died and he was
sent to an orphanage and I immediately but silently know that she either died
of a broken heart because her child was being wrenched from her or it was the
lies of the forked-tongue people who stole all children at 5 years from their
mothers and threw them into “Indian Schools”.
The sunrise is so intense, brilliant red streaks and long billowing fat rivers intermingling with red and black and grey curves and twists - by far the most stunning and immense sunrise I've been privy to since I've arrived here. It feels like Ray's words are being tossed into and painted onto the canvas of the dawn.
He peers intently into my eyes and tells me that when he
was put into that boarding school, he spoke not a word of english but when he
was let out, he spoke not a word of his own language, but could read every
passage, every page of the bible.
Our tears slipped down our cheeks in unison.