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Standing Rock Benefit Draws Hundreds to the Grange


Standing Rock Benefit Draws Hundreds to the Grange

By Shepherd Bliss

An estimated 600 people attended an inspiring Nov. 6, 5-10 p.m. Standing Rock benefit to support Native Americans and others seeking to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The event gained thousands of dollars through donations, food and wine sales.

The 1,172-mile-long pipeline currently is scheduled to cross both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to carry oil that was obtained by fracking and would be an environmental disaster. It also crosses Native American sacred ground. In the last seven months, over 50,000 people have participated in actions at the site and encamped at the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation. 

Police and security guards from throughout North Dakota and beyond have terrorized the peaceful water protectors, including using attack dogs and riders on horses. They have arrested hundreds, yet the encampment continues to grow, despite such police brutality. 

It has been a classic David vs. Goliath struggle with members of nearly 100 tribes and their allies on site. Amy Goodman of the radio/TV program “Democracy Now” was among hundreds arrested. Eventually released, her reports can be heard on her program and at her website.

Scheduled to start at 5 p.m., I arrived at 4:30 to volunteer. The Sebastopol Grange Hall parking lot already was full, so I was one of many who had to park on Highway 12’s sides or elsewhere. Shuttle buses brought people from both Analy High and the Community Cultural Center. At 9:30 people were still arriving.

This was the largest and most multi-cultural gathering that I have attended in my five years as a Granger, perhaps the largest single event ever held there in its decades-long existence. A family event, children and adults held signs like “Water is Sacred,” “Love Your Mother,” and “Water is Life.”

Outside the Grange Hall, two tents were set up, with tables for supporting groups, such as Vote Yes on Measure M, about GMOs, and the Peace and Justice Center.

A fire circle outside started the evening. Then indigenous people lead a prayer circle inside, after which people returned outside for lively Aztec dancing. Food from around the world, including Puerto Rico, was sold. A water blessing, music, dance, and art were offered. 

Information on direct actions to support the Standing Rock protectors were circulated. For example, people were encouraged to boycott DAPL funders, which include Wells Fargo Bank, Citibank, and Bank of America. Energy Transformation Partners, a Texas-based company, is building the pipeline and contends that it will create thousands of jobs.

“An SSU Student’s Journey to Standing Rock” banner headlines a long front-page Nov. 1 issue of the weekly Sonoma State Star. “There is an ancient Native American prophecy that speaks of a great black snake that will one day run through all the valleys and rivers, desecrating life in its path,” Noah Treanor writes. “From east to west, tribal elders have warned for generations this monster was coming. And today it seems it is finally upon us.”

 “We could see men, women and elders being grabbed and body slammed to the floor,” reports Treanor. “Everyone was locked in arms and still in prayer.”

“A wonderful event!” Angela Ford said. “Lovely energy, so many young people and elders. Great music from Royal Jelly Jive.” She added that it was “not purely a local event. I talked with a woman from Berkeley, a native from Novato, a couple from Ukiah, and one of the Feather dancers from Roseland.  Others came from San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area.”

Shepherd Bliss {} is an Adjunct Associate Professor of English
at Dominican University. He has contributed to 24 books and farmed for the last
two decades.

Shepherd Bliss {} is an Adjunct Associate Professor of English at Dominican University. He has contributed to 24 books and farmed for the last two decades.