CANNON BALL, ND - The first thing you notice once you enter Oceti Sakowin Camp, close to the front lines of the showdown at Standing Rock, is that the “camp” is now a small city, housing some 8,000 people. That includes indigenous people, activists, visitors and media, all camping in the snow in below freezing temperatures. The indigenous people of Standing Rock have expanded the camp and have meticulously organized a massive operation running solely on donations, volunteer work and the spirit of the Sioux people and the visitors who’ve come to protect the water with them.
Many structures are so strongly built that you can walk on the rooftops. Notably, there is a school that has been teaching a class of Lakota youth as a home school resource center since August, which is planning an expansion.
That some refer to Standing Rock as their “home” is not hyperbole; for many Sioux, their home at Standing Rock is now a permanent residence. As you look around the small city, one thing becomes clear: Short of a small military invasion, requiring demolition and significant force, an evacuation is simply not realistic.
On Facebook, where incoming supporters share information, there’s a new rumor nearly every day of what is and isn’t happening at the camp. Some claimed that police shut down access to all supplies from the outside, but supply routes are still open. Some believed drones had been banned, but drones are in the air. However, alcohol, drugs and weapons of any kind are banned from camp. Security check through supplies, confiscating contraband like alcohol when it comes through.
It is unclear when the next action will be, but every morning there is a schedule for Oceti Sakowin Camp, with notices posted, whiteboards updated and signs put up in meeting halls and port-a-potties with new requests and announcements. Action meetings are at 8 a.m., mandatory orientation is at 9 a.m. Before dawn, a group leaves from one of the sacred fires for prayer. White allies are told to attend at least one of these prayers to pay respect. White allies are also recommended to attend to one of the many decolonization education sessions that are held at the dome every other night at 6 p.m.