Standing with Standing Rock: Nevada County residents travel to pipeline protest with donations
Special to The Union
As protests continue over the oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, many in Nevada County are showing their support.
The controversy over the pipeline has been raging since April, when members of Standing Rock Sioux tribe began protesting its construction. The argument largely centers around where the pipeline company, Energy Transfers Partners, intends to build. The Standing Rock tribe says that the pipeline is being constructed over sacred land and poses serious environmental risks, especially where it is due to cross under the Missouri River. Early last month, clashes between protesters and private security brought media scrutiny and added attention. Now, what were once a few hundred protesters has swelled to thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous people.
Chris Jones had experience helping reservations in the past. He regularly travels to South Dakota during the summer, and has raised money for four different reservations in the area. It wasn’t until after his latest outing in mid-August that he first caught wind of the unrest in Cannon Ball.
“I found out that there was this protest movement happening,” Jones said. “On social media, they started blasting all this information out there. Within a short period of time, (the protest) swelled to 3,000 people. I was watching this unfold…and I just felt a call. I was like, ‘What can I do?”
Then, Jones went on KVMR’s Dreamwalk program, which broadcasts Native American and indigenous people’s music. On the program, he asked for help from the community to organize a supply run to North Dakota, as most of the protesters were camping and many had little in the way of supplies. As it turns out, the community was more than willing.
“He came on the show and said he wanted to do something, and everybody was like, ‘Cool, let us know when you want to do it,” said Jennifer Robin, executive producer of Dreamwalk. “The next time he was on, he said, ‘Alright, I’ll be in these locations collecting items.’ People were bringing us stuff in the lobby before we were even done with the program.”
“The response was very surprising to me,” Jones said. “When I did this before, it took six weeks to eight weeks to organize it. I was blown away with the response and the amount of help I got this time, including KVMR allowing us to go on their station and broadcast our need out there. I was really surprised how quickly this county mobilized and I didn’t realize how socially active people in this county were. I’m from Ojai, and there’s a lot of that down there, but this community is very supportive of social causes.”
The donated items included camping gear, clothes, medical supplies, chainsaws and building equipment, among other things. A GoFundMe page was set up by Rough and Ready resident Kelly Gatley to help pay for a truck to haul the donations and fuel to make it to North Dakota. In all, it took only two weeks for the necessary funds to be raised.
Jones is quick to point out that the project was a group effort. Along with Gatley, contributions from Amanda Noakes and Michael Ben Ortiz, another broadcaster on Dreamwalk, ensured that Jones’ mission would be a success.
Jones and Ortiz were the ones to make the trip to the site of the protests, leaving Sept. 12. Robin, on behalf of KVMR, joined them a day later. By then, the pipeline protestors had built their own town, with a large-scale kitchen and radio station, with plans to add an internet café and charging station, Jones says.
“I didn’t really have an idea about what it was going to feel like,” he said. “I had heard these reports of there being between 5,000 and 7,000 people, and that this village that was created was the 14th largest town in North Dakota. “This is a movement, and it’s not like anything that has happened in the past,” Jones continued. It’s probably the single most important thing, politically, socially and even spiritually, that has happened during my life. I felt really emotional seeing all of this, and I have to say I cried seeing it. It was beautiful.”
“I was full of pride and in awe,” said Robin. “Being an indigenous person, we’re kind of scattered to the wind like seeds. To be surrounded by thousands of indigenous people is indescribable; you really feel like you’re part of something and not on the outside anymore. And that is just a gift.”
Both Jones and Robin described the scene as peaceful, as most were inclined to pray and demonstrate without the need for violence. Jones says that the goal is to get a truck back up to protesters once a month, and asks anyone interested in continuing to help the effort to visit the Facebook page “Nevada County Stands with Standing Rock.”
“I want to encourage people in our community to come out and participate; even if people can only get out there for a short period of time,” said Jones. “If you can’t go, write to the politicians, to the Governor of North Dakota. Let those people know how you feel about how these people have been treated.”
Spencer Kellar is a freelance writer living in Nevada County; he can be reached at email@example.com.
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