I had the honor of being at Oceti Sakowin on the day the easement news broke. I was on my way to Winona Katso’s kitchen when the news that the Army Corp denied the easement permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline broke over the Oceti Sakowin radio station. Katso was overjoyed as I walked up.
“Our prayers worked. I never had doubt that we wouldn’t win. I knew the Creator would help us protect our water. I had a good feeling about this weekend.” Katso said from her camp which she calls “Winona’s kitchen.”
Since August, Katso has been the head cook of Oceti Sakowin feeding the masses as they work at Oceti Sakiowin Camp. She knew that to be their strongest water protectors needed to have full stomachs and healthy food. Katso even opened a traditional foods kitchen to meet the needs of all Native people.
“I cook everything under the sun here; we have mutton stew, we have elk, we have moose for the Canadians – it comes in by donations – we have shark, alpaca, I made alpaca. You name it, they bring it. We have gone through about eight deer now that people donated.”
Katso feeds hundred of people daily with a crew of 28 volunteers who run the kitchen. People often leave and come back to help.
“Even journalists who should be out reporting on Oceti.” she said handing me a piece of frybread for my friend and I who were unloading donations.
As I walked back to my tent eating some of the best frybread I’ve had (sorry grandma), I ran into Anthony Sul from the Ohlone nation. Sul, a Bay Area native, has been living with the Red Warrior camp since he came to Oceti Sakowin. He came to North Dakota right after he finished a pipeline tour with Native activist Winona LaDuke in Minnesota. Sul’s views on the easement denial were not as hopeful as Katso’s.
“They had just had a victory over there but it was a sour tasting victory because they pulled out of that pipeline in Minnesota and ended up investing in the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Sul. “We won that but it just switched to being out here.”
For the past few months Sul has lived in the Red Warrior Camp, a camp in Oceti Sakowin that is associated with direct action and non-violent civil disobedience. Sul says that he has seen the change in people living at the Oceti Sakowin camp that he believes will be brought home with people, but he has also seen the undercover DAPL security who pretend to be attending an action but end up walking away with the DAPL security.
“Being here in prayer is a direct action. Even being alive is a direct action, because we aren’t even supposed to be alive,” said Sul of the importance of everyone who has come to camp to help with the cause.
“There is no lost hope, or anything like that. This is a prophesized time. This is a time where people are supposed to wake up. People are waking up, that is why there’s thousands of people here right now.”
Jennifer K. Falcon is an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux tribe. She grew up an urban Indian in Denver, and is now a progressive political organizer in San Antonio Texas. Follow her on Twitter: @yourmomentofjen.