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In their own words …
Brian LaBatt or Wanbli Gleska is from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. In his interview, LaBatt discusses some of his experiences on the front lines and expresses an appreciation for the life he lived at Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock. LaBatt places a lot of emphasis on his grandchildren and great-grandchildren as motivation for him to continue protecting Mother Earth.
Celia Espinoza traveled from Idaho to visit and stand as a Water Protector at Standing Rock. When the camp was finally cleared, it had impacted her life so much that she moved to North Dakota to work on the legal campaign. She was hired by the indigenous-led Freshet Collective that provides support services for indigenous people who were arrested at Standing Rock. In her interview, she reflects on the power and beauty of the collective action, on being a mother and an activist, and what she learned about herself and her place in the movement.
Danny Grass Rope
Danny Grass Rope was one of the young people who inspired the resistance movement at Standing Rock. He was part of a youth-led protest run from the Standing Rock reservation to Washington, D.C. in order to draw attention to the decision of the Dakota Access Pipeline that threatened the water source for people at Standing Rock and all those downstream who receive water from the Missouri River. After the run to D.C. he quit his job and lived at the camp for 8 months.
Danny was one of the founding members of the International Indigenous Youth Council created at Standing Rock that provided direction and a voice of the young people at camp.
Danny expresses how he was not initially receptive to the information about damage pipelines present. However, his exposure to others has helped him connect to his Native identity and understand the importance of his culture. In his interview, he says that he “woke up everyday knowing there was a battle,” but what kept the camp together was prayer and a commitment to unarmed direct action.
Dave Simison, known as “the lawyer who did dishes” is an attorney who traveled from Annapolis, Maryland to join the movement at Standing Rock. After seeing videos online of the dog attacks on the Water Protectors, Simison felt the need to take action. He headed out two days after Labor Day of 2016 to the Oceti Sakowin Camp established at Standing Rock. In his interview, he told about his time at camp and the shocking police brutality he witnessed on the front lines.
Don “Cuny Dog” Cuny
Don “Cuny Dog” Cuny is seen as a key figure in theAmerican Indian Movement and was a leader of the security team for many months at Standing Rock. He also has been involved in protest-based activism and community organizing.“Cuny Dog” is a Lakota from Manderson, South Dakota and is the Vice-President of the Grassroots American Indian Movement. Throughout his life he has taken part in other movements that include Alcatraz Island, fishing rights protests in Washington State, and Wounded Knee. He talks about the beautiful and harsh moments he experienced as a Water Protector. He sees far-reaching consequences of Standing Rock as “An awakening for the world not just America.”
Eden Jumper is from the Seminole Nation in Florida. Struggling with finding his identity, he left school and decided to join the movement at Standing Rock. Jumper first arrived to Standing Rock in early February and found comfort in the two-spirit camp, where he stayed with his partner for several weeks. He describes his experience at Standing Rock by expressing the frustration with ways in which Native spaces at Standing Rock too often became “infiltrated by white people.” Jumper talks about the challenges he faces as a Native person in Florida, describing it as a place where “native spaces are nonexistent.” Jumper also explains the work that goes into educating others about the history of colonization and how draining educating others can be.
In his interview, White talked about his experiences in camp (Standing rock), his family, spirituality, the bonding that occurred, and the violence he witnessed. White wants to bring awareness to the next generation and have everyone speak up and become activists. He expressed how camp was a spiritual place for many. They believed that everything that happened in camp was meant to be. He spoke of the violence he witnessed when lasers and guns were pointed at the people who were defending their rights. White emphasized that the Elders are teachers and guides.
Jean Roach is an enrolled tribal member from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. She is an organizer for the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and is an artist. She attended the We Will Remember Survival School as a child and has been involved in activism since then. She went to the front lines of Standing Rock after the mass first arrest. Roach spoke about the Tiger Swan infiltration tactics and how those familiar with the movement are not new to demonstrations like Standing Rock. She underscored how environmental justice is intrinsically linked to the indigenous struggle for freedom under colonization.