Rural and urban Oregonians alike are transfixed by what is happening out at Standing Rock. In the midst of an ugly and disempowering presidential election, we are bearing witness to a fight for the self-determination of the people of Standing Rock who are, along with thousands of indigenous and non-native allies from across the continent, standing in the way of multinational corporations to protect and defend clean water. As militarized police and private security brutally suppress action after action led by determined indigenous folks on the literal frontlines of the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, the brave water protectors at Standing Rock are calling for allies to join them and to help fortify their encampments so they can continue on through the winter.
From Josephine to Wallowa County, local organizers have hosted hugely successful fundraisers and gear drives to support folks on the frontlines and to send people in solidarity. Rural Oregonians across ROP’s network have been contemplating how we can contribute our multitude of skills to support water protectors at Standing Rock, including building and construction, nursing, emergency response and crisis intervention, and creatively feeding large groups of people from what we’ve got in the pantry. Many folks are struggling to figure out how to piece together the gas money to get out there and get back.
Like so many other rural Oregonians, we find it hard not to be there and we want to heed the calls for support from allies. ROP has decided to pull together the resources to send a contingent of rural Oregonians to Standing Rock to support those on the ground in preparing for winter.
We are calling on all rural Oregonians who are interested in joining the ROP contingent to fortify Standing Rock for the winter to apply here by November 17th! We will be prioritizing seats for indigenous folks, as well as rural and small town residents who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get out to Standing Rock. We especially encourage applicants who have the following skills to offer: building and construction (especially plumbing and electrical), medical skills (particularly nurses, doctors, and EMTs), trauma-informed healers and body workers, artists, lawyers, and media. We are planning to leave Oregon on December 9th and return by the 19th.
After militarized police maced, beat, and shot at unarmed water protectors and arrested over 140 people during the last week of October, the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock said, “If you live on this land, breathe the air and drink water, this is your fight too. Our Brothers, Sisters and Protectors are putting their bodies and lives on the line everyday on the front lines in Standing Rock. First and foremost, we call upon all protectors to come stand with us on the frontlines.”
Our number one priority is to share our skills and our labor as informed by indigenous leadership at the encampments. As rural Oregonians we pride ourselves on both our self-reliance and our interdependence, and we will embody that at Standing Rock. With your help, we aim to set-up and donate all of the gear necessary to sustain a group of our size, including shelters (large extreme weather tents complete with woodstoves), a kitchen equipped to feed 50, and more, so future contingents can come in to a fully-equipped camp.
We are inviting all human dignity groups and rural community members who care about racial, economic, and social justice to be a part of this opportunity. Decide who will represent your community on the tour, and decide how your community is able to show up. How much can your group raise to help cover the costs for the infrastructure we will leave behind, or fund someone from your community to make the journey with us? In the next few days we will be sharing more information on making your community’s plan to show you stand with Standing Rock! If you able to make a donation right now to help us pay for the gear and infrastructure we will bring with us and donate, please click here! Early donations allow us to anticipate what we are able to gather.
As rural people, we know how precious clean water is. As we watch our wells run dry during drought years, the heightened risk of catastrophic fires, and the diminishing salmon runs in the creeks that run through our backyards, we know that water is life! We stand with the people of Standing Rock, as well as the people across the continent calling for the protection of water, from Flint, Michigan to rural Alabama who are recovering from a second pipeline explosion in the last two months.
We also see the irony of occupying militias who have already attempted to co-opt the energy at Standing Rock claiming that their armed takeover of Burns Paiute land in Harney County is somehow akin to the struggles of indigenous people on the frontlines in North Dakota. Thankfully, the leadership of Standing Rock declined and actively discouraged such activity, including issuing notices that all allies coming into camp must be unarmed, and specifically naming that militia groups that seek to advance their own agenda are not welcome.
For those of us who organize to counteract the Patriot movement in Oregon, we can’t help but shake our heads at the notion that the struggle by indigenous communities to protect water in the face of militarized state violence is in any way comparable to a bunch of fake cowboys who parachuted into rural Oregon and occupied a bird sanctuary. Here at home we are facing occupying paramilitaries; in North Dakota we are seeing an occupied people resist. One could ask any manner of questions about the differences, including how structural racism is at play, who holds power, the role of corporations, and most importantly, who is making the decisions about what communities need most — the people who live there and are most impacted?
Rural Oregon has some sense of what it feels like to have our communities occupied, to lose our ability to decide for ourselves what is best for our communities, to have natural resources pillaged for corporate profit and then left to flounder with destroyed ecosystems, dying local economies, and social safety nets that have such huge holes that entire communities are falling through them. Political leadership is turning a blind eye. Our experiences in rural Oregon and at Standing Rock have significant differences, but what is happening to our respective communities are indicators of what seems to be growing across the continent — and we are going to resist.
In rural Oregon, we are also fighting the corporate takeover of natural resources and community infrastructure. Out-of-state interests, such as the American Lands Council, are ramping up the rhetoric around the privatization of public lands that make up almost half of the state. A Canadian company, Veresen, is seeking to expand the export of fracked gas by pipeline across rural Southern Oregon, impacting indigenous lands and critical waterways that are the lifelines of our communities. Donations from corporations that have profits to gain from the pillaging of rural land are being funneled into rural Oregon electoral races, from the state legislature to county commission races. The railroads that tie so many small towns together are now being prioritized to transport explosive and cancer-causing fossil fuels such as crude oil and coal, risking horrific accidents near homes and schools.
We have seen this rhetoric play out over and over, where rural and especially indigenous communities bear the brunt of the environmental fallout of corporate pillaging of land. We are weary of these same corporations, and the politicians who stand idly by, who use our economic insecurities to justify the harm that they perpetuate against rural and indigenous people and other marginalized communities. This rhetoric divides our communities and pits neighbors against each other while corporations take our divisions straight to the bank. The strongest thing we can do now is to eliminate those divisions. Connecting the dots between the issues and our struggles across geography is one way we can begin to do that.
For all of these reasons, we wish to support rural Oregonians who are ready to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock. We invite communities across the state to join us. Come up with your plan: who will you send to represent your community? How will you support them in getting to Standing Rock? Can your community make a donation to help cover the cost of the camp infrastructure we will build and donate for others to utilize? Let’s send a message from our towns to Standing Rock: rural Oregon stands with you!
Who will you encourage to join us on this journey? Please share this application and apply here to join us December 9th-19th, or click here to donate toward the winter infrastructure we will purchase and build at Standing Rock. Do know that cost of travel is not a barrier — this is a pay-as-you-can opportunity.