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In their own words …
Kayson Thompson is from the Itazipco band of the Lakota and lives on the Cheyenne River Reservation. He was only 16 years old during his time at the Standing Rock occupation beginning in August 2016. He lived there for eight months and was part of the Horse Nation camp. Riding his horse every day, he experienced a powerful connection to his sense of purpose and identity as a Lakota person. He was instrumental in driving the buffalo to Standing Rock and experienced as a result police brutality and mistreatment during his arrest.
Larry Handboy is a 72 year old Lakota man from the White Horse community on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. He has worked as security for the American Indian Movement for fifty-one years. He brought this experience to his security role at Standing Rock. In his interview, he discussed his early experiences working security for the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties Protest in Washington, D.C. During the 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 on the Pine Ridge Reservation, he worked night security. Handboy was called to testify in multiple Grand Jury investigations tied to the Wounded Knee trials in the 1970s.
Laura Sterling is a Barkindji woman, from South East Australia, who initially traveled to America with intentions to witness the solar eclipse. She felt obligated to visit Standing Rock and the Cheyenne River Reservation to pay her respects to the land and its people. She sees striking similarities between the values of Native American culture and Aboriginal culture, particularly the emphasis on deep respect for the environment and Mother Earth.
Lily and Olivia Kincaid
Lily and Olivia Kincaid are a mother and daughter from Nebraska who spent time at Standing Rock. During their interview, they described how much they loved camp life and were deeply affected by it. Lily emphasizes that she and her daughter went to Standing Rock in order to support the fight for the water and indigenous rights and sovereignty, and she also places a lot of emphasis on education of younger generations.
Lisa Skye, a Lakota from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, is part of an extended family of activists who lived at the Oceti Sakowin camp for five months. She discussed how she observed the media belittle their movement and that those who know must speak out.Skye believes that this fight is to help future generations and is honoring and respecting those ancestors who fought before and for her. Skye firmly thinks that they must continue to fight hard and ensure that water is a provision for everyone. She touches also on history and daily experiences of racism that indigenous people face.
Marcella Gilbert is an enrolled tribal member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Coming from a family of activists, her mother being Madonna Thunder Hawk an American Indian Movement leader, Marcella has been surrounded by activism her whole life. Her involvement in Standing Rock began in August, 2016 where she found a community that held itself to a higher standard, supported one another, and treated everyone as relatives. A camp where people were free to believe in their spirituality. Gilbert was heavily involved with the creation of schools at Standing Rock. Since Standing Rock the racism in South Dakota has been off the charts, yet it has not made it into any public discourse. There is a dangerous idea that Standing Rock is over to which Gilbert responds, “It’s not over for us, and it will never be over. Because not only was it about the water but it was about the treaty obligations, and that’s all we have. All we have is our treaties, and our lands, our water, and our lives. So it’s never gonna be over for us.”
Phillip Gullikson is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa Tribe of North Dakota on his mother’s side and on his father’s, he is Ihunktowan Dakota. He was part of Standing Rock from August 2016 to the end of February 2017. He described camp life and likened it to how his ancestors would have naturally lived by sharing communally to meet the needs of the people. He talked about the political strategy of the movement and how Chairman Dave Archambault was skilled in dealing with the image of the camp, but that it should always be remembered that the entire movement began as a peaceful prayer camp led by women and young people. Deeply moved by the daily acts of “decolonization” in the form of intergenerational cooperation in the seemingly simple task of chopping wood, he is grateful to have been a part of something so powerful.
Moreno Miguel is Minnecoujou Lakota and he lives in the Cherry Creek community on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Miguel was drawn to Standing Rock after hearing about the violence and brutality against women and children engaged in peaceful ceremonies and marches. Having thirteen sisters and being raised by powerful women, as is the Lakota tradition, he took a role as a protector and staff keeper. He spoke about the injuries he sustained in his role as a Water Protector and how he stayed grounded in the face of such brutality.