Oceti Sakowin Camp, North Dakota – Sunday. Typing in a tipi today. Wood on the fire. Tea in the gut. Keeping warm. Trying. The clouds are off the sun. Good. Wear black. Let the beams embrace you like a lover. Ice everywhere. People falling everywhere. Media hill is a goddamn death trap. I had wanted to do some research on the difference between pigs and police, but that’ll have to wait. We’ve got good news. At long last.
The black snake has been trapped. Or at least walloped. For now. A full environmental impact statement must first be completed, they said. Finally. ‘Bout time. Hugs and tears of joy abound. The energy has changed here. Dramatically. A weight has been lifted, but only for the moment. Like coming up for air. We’re not fools. This is a Custer win. Yes. We beat General George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry to meat in the Battle of the Greasy Grass. And this victory is like that victory. It’s a win, but more land-horny thieves are coming.
More. Right. The orange man is on deck. Trump the troll. His minions. Pipeline lovers. Oil-addicted junkies. Wall builders and bigots. The illegal immigrants in this country are not brown. I’ve said this before. Many times. These gibbed geeks are the descendants of European invaders. But enough of that. Word is the oil-and-gas fat cats at Energy Transfer Partners are pissing and moaning into their whiskeys and ryes. Whiny brats. They said they’ll push on. President Andrew Jackson pushed on, too. The Trail of Tears happened anyway. “Justice Marshall made his decision, now let him enforce it.” Another whiny brat.
There’s little justice in this world, but on last Sunday, December 4, Native Americans got a taste. It’s always a fine feeling when good prevails over evil. And that’s what these pipelines are. Evil. Pure. Unadulterated. How could they not be? The oil oafs and their seedy oligarch asshat homies know pipelines leak. And they know people get sick when they do. Just ask the folks in the gulf who are still suffering from the massive BP oil spill. They agonize from chronic respiratory illnesses and skin diseases. THEY know what happens when pipelines leak and poison the water, sink into the soil. But these paunchy pipeline pricks turn a blind eye in the name of profit. They are gibbed vermin, and they deal in deception.
Back in North Dakota, the racism continues. This is good ol’ boy county. “Gimme some!” is the de facto state credo. Big blue plastic balls swing on the back of pick-ups. Glares and sour stares in Bismarck. I tried to buy a grill in town recently for the Oglala camp and faced a crusty dragon.
“We don’t carry ‘em,” the grisly Walmart sales rep said.
“But you carry grilling supplies, yes?” I asked.
“Check gardening,” he uttered, scowling as he walked away.
I checked gardening. Nothing. Went back to sports. Found it. What a rotten liar, I thought. Oh well. I should’ve expected nothing less. The discrimination of Native Americans is alive and kicking in this country, and especially in this corner of the U.S. Ask Tara Houska. They recently slashed her tires and shot out her windows. And then the cowards fled back into the night. Now I know why they have balls on their truck. Compensation. Welcome to coward country.
Monday. Snow falls heavily. Roads slippery. Spirits still high. “Where are you?” a friend asks. “Whipping together a column,” I said. “Got your snow shoes,” she said. Right. They’re needed here. Less than a week ago, face-masks and ear plugs and goggles were needed. And maybe they still are. Don’t pack them away just yet, folks. The fanged fuzz may not be at the front line right now, hiding behind masks and badges, but I can still smell them. They smell like oil. You can find cops and sheriffs and all manner of law enforcement in this state pretty easily just by their odor. Their scent. They also have oil on the bottom of their boots. They leave black stains on the ground wherever they go. They’ll deny this, of course, but you can’t deny the footprints. Cops deny a lot anyway. Ask Redfawn Fallis.
It’s hard to celebrate Sunday’s moment of victory knowing she’s in there. Today, Redfawn, tomorrow, you. And for now the black snake recoils in fear and pain and anger and frustration after the thing suffered a blow. A stunner. I’ve never had snake stew. Sounds good, though. I think I’ll have some one day as I recall the jubilation the other day. Right. The black snake and its masters underestimated us, its sworn enemy. Ah, but then there’s Trump the troll. We prepare for that battle. Nothing is ever enough for beasts. There’s never enough flesh for them to gnaw in their maw. Never enough victims. Or meat, or meals, or blood. Never approach a beast when it’s hungry or horny or both, and especially D.C. beasts with Bismarck ties.
Tuesday. At the hotel. Prairie Knights Casino. More snow. Vets sleep on the floor in the pavilion. Some there napping now. Roads closed headed south. Another storm coming, they said. Massive snow drifts. Seven-feet high. Got to head back to camp, the tipi. “Careful on your way,” a friend says. Facebook Live feeds show the roads, and I think I can make it. That, or I just really want some fry bread and buffalo stew. If I’m lucky. Meanwhile, if you lean in, you can hear the oil and gas rats still whining about Obama and “the Indians.” And the idea of them sucking their thumbs, curled into the fetal position, makes me all warm and fuzzy. No need for feet or hand warmers. No need for cocoa or coffee. The thought alone does it. You need water to make hot cocoa. Clean water. Somebody tell these jackals. Without clean water, how will they swill their high-priced whiskey while making back-room deals with senators and governors and mayors and crooked cops? If I meet one of these bums I’ll ask ‘em, and slap the bastards with facts: Water is life. Pipelines are death. But oil ogres only know how to grunt and hunt. Reasoning with them is futile. And I don’t speak grunt.
Wednesday and Thursday – Jeezus. Cabin fever. It’s burrowed like a tick. Everyone wired on coffee and buffet fare at the Prairie Knights Casino. Mind is twisted. Too many powdered eggs. People scattered across the lobby and hotel hallways like New York alleys. Socks half dangling from a guy’s foot, just there. A couple nuzzle to stay warm. A sudden want to watch Serendipity and nuzzle, too.
“Are you Simon?” a voice says.
“I am,” I respond. “Friend or foe? … Don’t eat the eggs.” A handshake. A compliment. “That’s very kind of you,” I say. And then I go back to blending into the crowd of staff and hippies and hippies with hippie staffs. Is that a chicken feather? Geetars all over the place here. I scour the casino looking for the sweet spot for some goddamn Wi-Fi connectivity. Found one. By the fireplace in the lobby. “Road’s are clear,” a man says. Rumors float of people pulling into Bismarck in one piece. I rush to get the hell out for a while. Get some real eggs, maybe – document some racism, probably. There are many types of hunters in North Dakota, especially on the streets of Bismarck. And they see no difference between Indians and antelope. Just meat. Game. Victims.
“Well, Jimmy,” I imagine one saying. “What kinda camouflage are we wearing today?”
“I guess that all depends on what the fuck we’re huntin’,” Dick responds.
“I want me some injun,” Jimmy utters, salivating, wiping weapons with diapers.
“I guess we’re takin’ the white truck and wearin’ our skeleton masks, ol’ boy.”
And they do.
Crawling to town. Slow moving. Scared drivers up and down the Highway 6. I pass several cars and a trudging, struggling semi. Abandoned vehicles line the road. Every one of them covered like a corpse with a white sheet of snow. … I pull into to Bismarck. Coward country. I drop off a colleague who’s desperately in need of rental car. “See you back up there,” I say. Then it’s back to camp. Racing against the dying of the light. I pull into camp at about 5 p.m. and make my way to the tipi. “Knock, knock,” I say, because how the hell does one knock on a tipi door anyway? No one home. I stumble in and find a stove fire raging, food on a table, but no souls. Wind pounds the tipi like pissed ghosts trying to get back inside a haunted house. Poles clink and rock unsteadily. I drop off some phallic fruit (bananas) on the table, grab my typewriter, reams of paper, and hop back into my car, pushing against the pressure of serious wind. Can’t count how many are in camp now. Everyone’s hunkered down inside their tipis and tarpees and yurts. It resembles Phoenix in the summertime. People run to their cars there in July. No one walks. Soles melt on the pavement. Instant sunburn. Not here, jack. No, sir. Cold like needles stabbing your face. Hands hard to pull into fists. Shivering suddenly ceases and you think, “Holy shit, is that hypothermia?” There was, in fact, an epidemic of hypothermia for many water protectors here who were hit hard by Morton County Sheriffs when they weaponized H2O one Sunday evening, which they would later deny. They said they were putting out fires, but we know the truth. It was Jimmy and Dick huntin’ injun. Look out.
Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter @SimonMoyaSmith.