Somes Bar 8th Grader Reports on Standing Rock

A crowd of water protectors form a prayer circle as part of an action at Standing Rock. Their campaign to stop the construction of a pipeline that could threaten Sioux tribal water supplies has drawn thousands of supporters to North Dakota and members from at least 300 tribes. Their tactics, all non-violent, have been met with increasing violence by heavily militarized police./Photo by Aja Conrad.

A crowd of water protectors form a prayer circle as part of an action at Standing Rock. Their campaign to stop the construction of a pipeline that could threaten Sioux tribal water supplies has drawn thousands of supporters to North Dakota and members from at least 300 tribes. Their tactics, all non-violent, have been met with increasing violence by heavily militarized police./Photo by Aja Conrad.

Editor’s note: Emma Boykin is 13 years old, an eighth-grader at Junction School in Somes Bar and a member of the Karuk Tribe.

I heard about the protests to stop pipeline construction at Standing Rock for a while, and I was very interested in the actions by Natives and other people from all over the country. My brother Brent Boykin and two cousins had been there and returned full of stories.

I heard my sister, Aja Conrad, was going so I talked my dad into taking me to Eugene to meet up with my sister where she goes to grad school at the University of Oregon. My mom, Shawnna Conrad, was very worried something would happen to me if we went out and joined the action. She heard about people getting bit by dogs, pepper sprayed and shot with rubber bullets. But, she let me go.

We got to the Oceti Sakowin camp in the middle of the night. In the morning I went up to the main camp where we joined a water ceremony. We went to the Klamath Basin Camp because we brought a lot of food to donate. The cook told us we were welcome. We moved our tent over to the Klamath Basin camp and began helping in the kitchen. We knew a few people, but everyone was very welcoming so you got to know everyone quickly. We helped organize the food and helped prep food for upcoming meals.

No one argued the whole time we were there. It was peaceful and pleasant. It was surprisingly warm during the day, but the nights were extremely cold.

Lots of people were in the kitchen and around the fire where people would tell stories and jokes. They all have a common goal to not just stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, but to stop all pipelines everywhere. Unlike some people, we understand the importance of water, which is why we want to protect it.

One day we went out on a prayer march. There were a lot of police beyond the barrier. The same day we went to the capital and formed a circle in front of the capital building. Someone had told the cops what we were planning to do so they put the building on lock down. There were 14 people who got there earlier who refused to leave. The police were taking the 14 people out in a van when we arrived. They said we had to stay behind the trees to the side of the building. About ten minutes later they said we had five minutes to leave, otherwise they were going to start arresting people. Some people got arrested after the five minutes were up, because they didn’t leave. I wasn’t too scared because they sort of warned us at that point and I had time to get out of the way of the police.

There were infiltrators who told the cops our plans while I was there. The last action we went to before we left, the leaders didn’t tell anyone anything. We just met up at the south exit when it was time to go. All our leaders said was to follow them.

My sister had to get back to Oregon because she had classes so she left me there with my brother, Brent Boykin, my cousin, Brandon Tripp, and with Darian Ferris from Hoopa. Brent and Brandon had been to Standing Rock earlier in September.

My aunt, Melodee Conrad and her kids went there last week. I saw a video where the police were about half of a mile from camp. The police sprayed the demonstrators with water cannons when it was 22 degrees outside and hit them with pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas. The police were not that violent when I was there.

My mom has talked to my aunt. She gave us the update and said Melodee was working in the medic tent all night. A young woman who was at the protest nearly lost her arm when a concussion grenade thrown at point blank range exploded. Look at the picture of the girl’s arm. The bone is showing. I heard that my cousin Brandon Tripp was shot with pepper spray and sprayed with water one of those nights by the police.

My mom was very excited when I came back home. I got back at about 10:30 p.m. My cousin Brandon decided to stay because they were going to be doing actions every day that week, and he told me that it was hard to leave the first time. He said he didn’t think he was going to be able to leave; it was too important. As much as I wanted him to be there to make the car ride a bit easier, I knew that it was more important for him to stay and fight.

Everybody who can go, should. They need as many people as possible, especially for the winter, but bring warm clothes. Use Google it to find it on a map. Search for Oceti Sakowin or the Cannon Ball River. Or just ask the police when you get nearby. Some of them are cool. They would ask where you were going and answer you if you had any questions. People who want to help, but can’t go themselves can donate stuff, very warm clothes, food or money. They should give it to someone who is on their way. Ask around. I’d send lots of hand warmers. I used a lot of those.

Some of my classmates asked me how it was and what I did over there. They asked what the camp was like. I don’t think any of them expected me to be a part of the action, so they were surprised when I told them. My teacher was fine with it. He said I could go if I wrote a report about it. Hopefully this counts for that.

I want to go back again soon. You get it inside your head. You don’t really forget about it and you want to know what’s going on.

There are many websites with information from Standing Rock. Here are a few:

http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/about

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dakota_Access_Pipeline_protests

Plus an article by Allie Hostler, former editor of the Two Rivers Tribune:

http://www.northcoastjournal.com/humboldt/IssueArchives?issue=4147858

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