A beyond-capacity crowd packed the SLO Guild Hall on Saturday, January 15 for an incredible gathering to hear stories both horrific and inspiring reported by local residents and others about their experiences as part of the Standing Rock resistance. The event was organized by Brittany App and Erin Inglish, and included a silent auction to raise money for the water protectors who are still on site through the freezing North Dakota winter.
Violet Cavanaugh, a member of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, performed an opening ceremony. She reminded us that in the 1960s, when sacred land at Point Conception was being defended from developers, tribes from all over the country came to stand with the Chumash to protect it (successfully). What is happening at Standing Rock has happened many, many times before, but outside the modern spotlight of social media.
Local residents young and old then stood up to relate their experiences traveling to and being a part of the activism there. Heidi Grant traveled from SLO County to take part and ended up getting arrested for protesting the horrific treatment of the protectors by some of the militarized uniformed officers, who sprayed them with water during freezing temperatures and shot them with rubber bullets and bean bag grenades, all caught on camera. Heidi said the peacefulness of the resistance was profound, along the lines of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. She observed that the more quiet and centered the people were the more positive the reaction from law enforcement. Some officers were openly weeping and left their posts.
Myron Dewey, the founder of Digital Smoke Signals and a key player at Standing Rock made a surprise visit with other Native Americans who had been part of the resistance. Myron said that with help from the other protectors and donations of equipment and funds, it was the first time the tribes were able to use technology such as drones for environmental justice. Their stories of desecration to their lands and brutal treatment of their peoples invoke tears even now. What was infinitely beautiful in the telling was their calm determination to continue a fearless, peaceful resistance in the face of such a huge and determined corporate-military machine. The example they set is humbling and inspirational. One of the water protectors, a rapper named Prolific, recorded a great music video called “Black Snakes.” Watch it here.
Thank you to Brittany App for the photo. More photos from Standing SLO can be found here.