POULSBO — Several North Kitsap residents have traveled the nearly 1,400 miles to the Oceti Sakowin Camp to stand in solidarity with others against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Protesters say a portion of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline owned by Energy Transfer Partners poses a risk to drinking water sources. They also say construction has disturbed Standing Rock Sioux cultural and burial sites.
Kimberley Campbell, owner of the Port Gamble General Store in Port Gamble, arrived at Standing Rock nearly two days ago. When she said she was there to volunteer, she was handed an apron.
Campbell is responsible for the preparing food for nearly 250 people, working alongside her father and 15 other kitchen volunteers.
“I’ve been at Standing Rock for two days, but I haven’t seen everything,” she told the Herald. “Pretty much my life has been in this kitchen, but with my dad, it’s like old times. We would help in kitchens at pow-wows together when I was a young girl.”
As many as 2,000 veterans are expected to arrive at Standing Rock Dec. 5.
“For most our veterans, Vietnam had no purpose, the Middle East has no purpose … Standing Rock has a purpose,” said Lavada Anderson, head of the Suquamish Tribe Veterans Resource Office, said.
The Standing Rock Sioux “have a right to stand their ground.”
For those who can’t be there on Dec. 5, she asks for “any prayers, any support, any legislative support. Let the authorities know the support is out there.”
Law enforcement officers and government officials halting in North Dakota have reportedly been stopping the delivery of supplies to the camp, and that has supporters of the protest concerned.
“We’re wondering how violent it’s going to get,” Campbell said. “They are doing everything they can to make it miserable … They’re beginning to fine people who have supplies in their cars. I’m not concerned of running out of food, today alone 25 people donated items; but my concern is firewood, propane and water. If we don’t have that we can’t cook for people.”
Demonstrators are hopeful that by drawing out the project to Jan. 1, pre-arranged contracts for the project will be voided, forcing investors to reconsider the pipeline’s route.
Though the future of the project is uncertain, the issue is emerging as both a Native sovereignty concern as well as an environmental matter. And the Kitsap County community is feeling it.
“It’s really important in our community what’s going on over there,” Port Gamble S’Klallam Chairman Jeromy Sullivan said.
“It’s not just a Standing Rock issue, for sure. It’s a lot of Tribes’ issues. The potential impacts of a community’s only source of water, especially here in the Puget Sound — a spill would be devastating to all Tribes in Northwest. It would be worse than devastating. These issues are really concerning and we hope the right thing occurs.”
Sullivan reflected on the recent Thanksgiving holiday.
“We had this discussion around the dinner table at Thanksgiving,” he said. “Native Americans are down getting Maced, thrown in jail, getting beat up. This holiday is to celebrate a relationship, but it seems like that relationship is deteriorating.”
Chuck Wagner and Lydia Sigo spent time at Standing Rock in November.
Wagner, vice president of the Suquamish Warriors veterans group, has shown his support at Standing Rock twice. Of his visit Nov. 18, he said the protests are peaceful and prayerful, but demonstrators are treated with violence and disrespect.
“There’s been infiltrators in the camp,” he said. “Everybody is stressing a peaceful prayerful and no weapons protest, and from what I saw everyone was peaceful and prayerful. But if you listen to the Morton County sheriff and local news, they’re portraying water protectors as troublemakers from out of state.”
Wagner said this is a reminder for our world to change its ways of thinking.
“It’s time we do something different,” he said. “Our love affair with fossil fuels has got to change.”
Sigo, a geoduck diver and curator/archivist at the Suquamish Museum, recently visited Standing Rock with a friend. She said the issue is very frustrating to Native American people, but the movement is bringing a lot of issues regarding Tribal rights to the forefront.
“Our reservations are being poisoned,” she said. “Here in Puget Sound, Boeing dumped chemicals right in the Duwamish River that hurt our salmon. It’s not a choice for us to stop eating salmon. It’s a spiritual part of who we are.”
On Thanksgiving Day, Sigo and a friend joined others in a prayer circle.
“We were asking them to please leave and stop desecrating the sacred site. Police sprayed some people holding signs with water hoses in freezing temperatures.”
Sigo said the next day barbed wire fencing was up, and canoes were smashed on the shore.
“My friend started to cry,” Sigo said. “I’m a Native educator so I tried to talk with the police. I said, ‘How would you feel if your great-grandpa was buried up there and he was a veteran?’ They didn’t talk back to me but I could tell they were hearing what I was saying and thinking about it.”
Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman visited Standing Rock in September.
“It inspired me and members of our Tribe,” he said. “There’s a backdrop with the issue to climate change and reliance of fossil fuels. there’s a lot of fears especially by younger people, for good reason. It’s affecting our natural system.”
Meanwhile, several local events are planned.
A Standing Rock vigil, in concert with a national call for prayer by Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse, is scheduled from 2:45-5 p.m. Dec. 4 at the old Kingston Community Center on Highway 104.
An event organized by Free Range Films is scheduled for 3 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Suquamish United Church of Christ, 18732 Division Ave. in Suquamish. Watch film clips and listen to men and women who have travelled to Standing Rock to join the water protectors. Participate in a discussion led by Sarah van Gelder, editor at large and co-founder of YES! magazine, who also spent time there. Donations for Standing Rock will be accepted.