WNC locals support protesters at Standing Rock

SACRED SPACE: The Rosebud camp is one of three encampments where protesters have gathered since August to oppose construction of the Dakota Access pipeline across tribal lands. Photo by Tommy Cook

With additional reporting by Karen Richardson Dunn and Virginia Daffron

The North Dakota prairies — where members of the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline since August — lie more than 1,500 miles from Asheville. Even so, the indigenous protest movement has resonated with many in WNC, and locals have found creative ways to support the protests.

‘Go back home and tell this story’

Three UNC-Asheville professors traveled to North Dakota on Sept. 2 to join the protests for a three-day period: Gilliam Jackson of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, an adjunct lecturer who teaches Cherokee language; Trey Adcock, a Cherokee Nation citizen who is assistant professor of education and director of American Indian Outreach; and Juan Sánchez Martinez, assistant professor of Spanish.

“Having never been to the Dakotas,” recalls Adcock, “I experienced multiple impressions at once. The beauty of the landscape contributed to a feeling of entering sacred space. At the same time, as we got closer to Sacred Stone Camp, the roadblocks and security presence took on an increasingly militarized feeling. That’s when the seriousness of the situation really hit us.”

One of the main reasons for his trip, Adcock says, was to deliver donated supplies. The people in the camp were “unbelievably grateful,” he notes. “They stressed how important it is for people from across the country to go back home and tell this story.”

A gathering in Madison County a few days prior to Xpress’  conversation with Adcock raised $400 in cash contributions, he says. But there are other ways to contribute. “It’s a beautiful movement because it’s based in prayer. If people can’t give money or supplies, the tribe let us know they are equally grateful for prayers, in whatever manner.”

Light bearers

Ashevillean Marston Blow, along with three other area residents, made the long journey to Standing Rock with 10 solar panels donated by John Senechal, a real estate agent with Keller Williams in Asheville. “I liked what they were doing in Standing Rock,” Senechal says, “fighting big oil. And solar is the answer to big oil. What a great match!”

Weaverville’s Sundance Power Systems donated 12 more panels. Dave Hollister, the company’s president, says he has since been raising money to build a solar trailer that he hopes to take to Standing Rock himself within the next two weeks. “It’s very special what’s going on up there; it’s a profound moment, and we wanted to support it,” he adds.

Tommy Cook, a 27-year-old Pittsburgh  native who moved to Asheville two years ago, also sensed the significance of the Standing Rock protests.  Cook, who worked as a field guide at a wilderness rehabilitation center, says, “After losing my identity as a wilderness guide I felt a lack of purpose and direction in my life.  Then I saw what was going on in Standing Rock. … My heart kept … telling me there isn’t anywhere more important to be right now than Standing Rock.”

What he found upon his arrival, he says, were “feelings of connection, purpose … collaboration, prayer, song, love, surrounding the entire camp. I was honored and grateful to be working beside the natives who started this movement … [who were being] reintroduced to a culture that they may have strayed away from.” And he adds, “[I myself] was finding a renewed sense of purpose … a new path.”

Feeding the protest

On Sept. 15, local business owner Rosetta Star Buan and a vanful of youth volunteers struck out for the Red Warrior Camp on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation with a trailer of outdoor kitchen equipment in tow. On Facebook, she explained the mission: “I have been tasked to deliver a trove of industrial-sized restaurant equipment that has previously been used to feed people on the ground during [Hurricanes] Katrina and Sandy, and many other smaller events. … We have equipment to prepare food for over 1,000 at a meal.”

FOOD FIGHTERS: Rosetta Star Buan and crew at Red Warrior Camp. Photo courtesy of Star Buan
FOOD FIGHTERS: Rosetta Star Buan and crew at Red Warrior Camp. Photo courtesy of Star Buan

Buan and her crew arrived at Standing Rock in the early morning hours on Sept. 17. Several days later, on Sept. 23, she took to Facebook once more, this time posting a video of a young Dakotas local, Herman Singh, expressing his protest of the oil pipeline. Her video went viral, garnering over half a million views by press time.

When asked why the Standing Rock protest should matter to people in Asheville, Buan replies, “The Standing Rock movement matters because we all drink water, breathe air, and eat food. ….  

“Our message is: We do not consent to the poisoning of the planet any longer. We need air. We need water. These are things that every human and every living being needs.’”

WNC takes a stand

On Sept. 27, Asheville City Council passed a resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux. The city’s resolution cites the cultural and natural resources at stake: “The proposed Dakota Access Pipeline would carry as many as 570,000 barrels of fracked crude oil per day for more than 1,172 miles from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, passing over sensitive landscapes including treaty-protected land containing recognized cultural resources and across or under 209 rivers, creeks, and tributaries including the pristine Missouri River, which provides drinking water and irrigates agricultural land in communities across the Midwest.” The resolution also highlights concerns about tribal sovereignty on reservations.

Richard Sneed, the vice chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, applauded city officials for continuing “to bring awareness to environmental and human rights issues.” According to the Cherokee One Feather, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Tribal Council passed a resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and also donated $50,000 to the Dakota tribe’s legal defense fund on Sept. 6.

Yet, cautions Asheville resident Jenna Be, the work of supporting Standing Rock remains unfinished. At a gathering of Standing Rock supporters held on Oct. 2 at New Mountain Asheville, Be, who had recently returned from the protests, explained: “The Department of Justice and the Army Corps of Engineers put out a joint statement . . . requesting that the energy company ‘voluntarily’ pause construction of the pipeline while the Army Corps of Engineers re-investigates the relationship between that land and the National Environmental Protection Act [also known as the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970] and the [National] Historic Preservation Act [of 1966].”

That request for a voluntary pause, says Be, “got spun in the media as ‘Obama squashes the pipeline.’  … The construction there has restarted. …  I haven’t seen anything in the mainstream media about that, but we know that that’s true.”

Ways to help

Twenty-year Asheville resident Erin Hardy has been working with Friends of the Sicangu Oyate, the Rosebud Lakota tribe, to raise funds for winterizing the Lakota camp at Standing Rock.  She says, “Our primary objective, in Asheville, is to raise [these funds] because if the protectors can’t withstand the North Dakota winter, then none of the other fund-raising efforts really matter (except for the legal defense fund), and the snows are coming quick.” Hardy has lists of people from the Asheville community who want to help and be directed: “The [Asheville] community is speaking,” she adds.

Hardy emphasizes the importance of Ashevilleans educating themselves about Standing Rock, urging: “Pick a place and dive in. …. People need to care to help effectively in this situation because … if you don’t have a passion-based understanding of what is going on, then you will likely lose your motivation. [And] this is going to be a long battle.

“… It’s dangerous to show people the spark of hope,” she continues.  “Those of us who know and care spend our days holding our breaths. … [but] as much as we worry, that hope could just as easily ignite, and it literally brings tears to my eyes to imagine that world.”


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About Juan Holladay
Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Juan Holladay graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2005 with a B.A. in Global Studies, and has made the Blue Ridge Mountains his home ever since. Juan is a father, musician, and balloon artist, among other things. Follow me @howdbot

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40 thoughts on “WNC locals support protesters at Standing Rock

  1. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    Meanwhile, world events are transpiring such that if the person these people most likely support gets elected, we will definitely see World War III, and these folks’ lives as they know it will come to a screeching halt. Trump is at least cautioning restraint. But Hillary says Syria is her #1 priority and has adopted a antagonistic, confrontational stance towards Russia. Russia will not back down, and is ready to go nuclear if cornered. So it may be that these folks will get the world they want, maybe just not in the way they wanted it.

    • Lulz

      Toss in open borders and a non-violent ETHNIC CLEANSING against whites. That’s what these people stand for.

      • Juan Holladay

        Pipeline oil spills getting into the Missouri and Mississippi rivers would poison the main water sources of our heartland. A lot of people, of all colors are involved in the movement to stop the pipeline from crossing these rivers. ETHNIC DIVERSITY is a strength in the USA.

        • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

          Life is filled with risks. This country wasn’t built by pantywaists. and it won’t survive being run by the same.

          • Juan Holladay

            The people camping at Standing Rock are preparing for double digit, sub-zero wind chills.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            My point was that life involves taking risks. There are something like 55,000 miles of crude oil pipelines crossing this country. That infrastructure provides a lot of benefit to this country. How often do you hear of a big spill from one of these? Not that often.

            So IMO it’s pointless to spend one’s life fighting something like this, particularly at a time when WWIII is at our door. I truly marvel that supposed liberals are paying more attention to a pipeline rather than a woman whose track record proves she’s a war-monger. She is largely responsible for the destruction of Libya, and is trying to destroy Syria. Problem is, the US can’t approach the situation like it has in the past (against third world countries and banana dictatorships) because another nuclear power is involved, that has said it is prepared and willing to use such if put in that position. Today’s progressives are not liberals. No self-respecting liberal can countenance war, which they would do by voting for Clinton.

          • Juan Holladay

            Thank you for taking so much time trying to make your point about World War Three and Trump; seems like you have really thought this one out and are passionate about your idea. I hope you continue developing your idea and learning about the issues that matter to you. Life is a learning process, and it’s not always comfortable expanding one’s understanding. But, it’s worth taking the risk, and it sure does build character.

          • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

            My comments weren’t about Trump. I only mentioned him because he has the best chance of beating Killery Strangelove. There are 2 other candidates besides Trump who appear not to be war mongers – Stein and Johnson.

          • Juan Holladay

            I’d like to hear the four major candidates debate the topic of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Unfortunately, we will probably be left to debate this ourselves.

          • The Real World

            A more relevant subject the primary candidates should be addressing, in detail, is what they going to do about the UN_ Affordable Care Act. It is imploding before our eyes.

            Democratic Gov of Minnesota, who supported the passage of the plan years ago, has taken political risk by speaking up now that it is no longer affordable by the people of his state.

            In just 2 1/2 weeks, we in NC, will find out what the premiums look like from the ONE INSURER (BCBS) remaining in our state. They will be ugly.

            Healthcare is a trainwreck. What are the solutions from our 2 lousy candidates????

      • boatrocker

        How dare those folks who were here first stand up for their own land- only white people named Bundy can do that!

      • luther blissett

        “a non-violent ETHNIC CLEANSING against whites”

        grow the f up. The US is not governed according to the approval of dumb old white men and their dumb old white beliefs.

        • Juan Holladay

          It is possible for anyone to post on this forum anonymously. Which means, one person can make multiple accounts and pretend to be multiple people in the conversation. Therefore, it’s always important to treat everyone in the conversation with respect, because the person you might be dissing is yourself.

        • Lulz

          LOL, what’s the matter? Your true hate of white men is showing? Yep lulz. Problem is Louis, that you stand for white genocide. You may not admit it but you do. LOL.

    • bsummers

      if the person these people most likely support gets elected, we will definitely see World War III

      Spread Putin propaganda much? You’re quick – this article just came out yesterday:

      Russian Ultra-Nationalist Says Vote Trump Or Risk Nuclear War
      “By contrast, Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton could spark World War Three, said Zhirinovsky, who received a top state award from Putin after his pro-Kremlin Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) came third in Russia’s parliamentary election last month.”

      Back in the day, it was supposedly the Republicans who were standing firm against Russia. Now you guys and the GOP nominee himself are cheerfully holding the door open for them to f*** with our election.

      Thanks for convincing me I’m right – I don’t like Hillary much, but I’m gonna hold my nose & vote for her over Orange Fascist Putin Puppet.

    • boatrocker


      Whitey males have it so hard here, don’t they?

        • Chris Peterson

          Thank you for patiently continuing to focus on the issue at hand. My friends from the 2012 election aka Tim Peck and Neighborhood would love to interject in any ongoing issue as if it’s black or white, and I value you measured responses.

  2. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    Will it be as it was many moons ago when pale face whose words have no iron in them came to red man’s land a made much trouble?

    “All the while, people living in the area of the pipeline construction project – particularly those in law enforcement – are growing nervous that what is now merely unpleasant could turn seriously violent. And one big reason is that there are competing groups of protesters on site. Some are Native American tribe members who have largely followed the law, but others are imports from activist groups who are causing problems. (KFYR TV News)… They are protesting fossil fuels and don’t seem to give more than lip service to the concerns of the tribes.”


    • Juan Holladay

      Thank you for being on topic with this post. I’ve never heard of the website hotair.com before you shared this link. I will check it out in more depth. But, in response to your point, there are different camps at Standing Rock. It has been challenging, according Rosetta Star Baun, for the differing view points to coexist in one movement; however, the greater goal of stopping the pipeline has generated effective synchronicities.

      • Juan Holladay

        EDIT: According to Rosetta Star Baun, many differing view points coexist within the movement; the greater goal of stopping the pipeline has generated effective harmony between camps at Standing Rock.

  3. Terpsichori

    Snowflake- just so you know within the past 4 months there has been 3 major pipeline breaks. One in Georgia, one in Pennsylvania and one in Alabama. Millions of anerican have poisoned water because of this.

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