What I learned from Standing Rock, by Nico

chefnicoWe went to Standing Rock Indian Reservation to stand with the Lakota Sioux as they fight the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and prepare for the winter. We went for a few reasons:

1) A lot of people don’t get the chance to go there, and so we were very lucky to be doing this trip and to have the flexibility to stay several days.

2) We have definitely been following the news from there, and we felt called to go support them.

3) We believe in clean water, we don’t believe we need more pipelines and we definitely believe it is crazy that some industrial company can dig through sacred lands without anyone saying anything.

picture I took as we were driving of the halted construction of the pipeline on tribal land

The Dakota pipeline is a project for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, or MAIN. It is about 1,172-miles long and a 30-inch diameter. It is proposed to run through sacred territory of the Lakota Sioux. To make a pipeline, you have to dig up earth to be able to bury it. So people from more than 300 American Indian nations are linking arms around the land and protesting about it. Also, looking through environmental eyes, the pipeline could leak and cause oil to spill onto natural land. One leak could contaminate Lake Oahe, the main source of clean water for the area.

I learned about a prophecy in the school there. The black snake was a prophecy seen by many elders of many different nations. The prophecy stated that a black snake would come with disaster during the “Seventh generation,” which is us, and then there would be an uprising of some sort.

It’s important because the way people have treated American Indians for such a long time is not okay at all. The reason it is important is because that sort of injustice is still happening.

For Example:

When the Europeans came to America, they put treaties in front of the Native peoples’ faces and put lines on paper that were supposed to signify territories. What the whites did not understand was that the Native Americans didn’t do things that way.

Once, during Crazy Horse’s’ lifetime, an American Indian saw a cow roaming in the grass. In the American Indian’s lives, no living animal belonged to anyone. He killed it, and shared it with his tribe, the Lakota. They had a wonderful feast. Turns out, the cow had gotten through a whites’ farm fence. The white farmer reported the Indian to the U.S. Army, and the Army killed him, which then provoked some retaliation in Crazy Horse’s group.

In the late 1800s, Whites signed a treaty with American Indians. The treaty said that if the American Indians moved to a reservation, they would get peace, free food and water, and hospitality. Not only did they not get any of those, but a couple years later whites discovered gold in the reservation; The Black Hills. They moved into the Black Hills without any permission and started destroying the land and hunting all of the buffalo, which was their main source of food.

Starting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American Indian children were taken from their families and put into English schools where they were beaten if they spoke their own language. They were given European-American haircuts and new white names, and they were “Civilized,” and “Christianized.” Because of this, a lot of American Indians weren’t able to learn their language and traditions.

These sorts of injustices are still happening. The pipeline is one huge example.

So, what was it like in the camp? We got to it around 3:00 on Wednesday. We kind of hung around, observing and learning what was going on. We were the guests. There was a main fire in the “center” of the camp. People would talk and dance and sing during the open mic. Once we got in the swing of things, we started helping out more.  My dad helped with the clothes donations and my mom helped in the school while I chopped wood. I did it because it looked fun and because I knew it would be very helpful; it drops way below freezing in the winter. Many people are planning to stay the whole winter.  They believe that is the only way they have a chance to stop the construction of this pipeline.  Staying through the freezing cold winter shows just how serious they are.


I went to the school for the first day. There were a lot of kids all crammed into a big tent. When it finally started, we went into a tipi to learn some prayers. Then we went into a big tent to learn the Lakota language. Then we read a book about a Native American boy in a vision quest to become a man. During lunch, I went away and did my own thing for the rest of the day. I chopped wood and hung around the main fire.

Me, chopping some wood behind the main kitchen

During the night, it smelled like burning rubber for some reason. And it was impossible to sleep until 5:00 in the morning because there was so much noise and so many lights. But once you went to sleep, you were in deep sleep. My mom and dad slept in the tent every night and Oscar and I slept in the Pop – Top so that we could have a living space downstairs with the table. It came in handy when I got a fever and stayed inside for the whole day. I spent most of the day sleeping and playing on my phone.

Every day (except for my sick day,) we helped out with the donations.

I guess this is Oscar’s way of helping:)

People clearly had sent the donations as a way to trash their dirty ripped jacket, so the place was a mess. But other people helped a lot and we definitely improved it.

I learned a lot. I learned about the Sioux, and their traditions. About the people there. I learned that there will always be people who are willing to risk everything to help.

When I have kids, I want them to be happy in the real world. I want them to be happy because there is no racism or sexism around. I want them to have clean air to breath and clean water to drink. I want to know that all people’s rights and way of life can be respected.

Nobody wants a pipeline in his or her backyard.


  1. Exceptional article Nico. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your observations. One cannot get the various Indian Nations perspective from our press or the appreciate how his affects them most directly. Thanks for sharing, I will follow it more closely going forward and help where I can.


  2. Another winning blog, NIco! It is eye-opening to have a first hand account of what life is really like at Standing Rock. You have learned so much more than I ever did about our native populations on this trip.


  3. Nico, your writing keeps getting better and better! Well done! I learned a lot from this entry. You and your family should be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Keep up the good work, and we hope to see you guys soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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