A group of Keene State College students traveled to North Dakota to get their feet on the ground for Standing Rock. The trip, which took roughly 27 hours driving one way, occurred over Thanksgiving break.
Leader of the group and KSC senior Maggie Mason said the majority of the trip was paid for by the students who went. “All of the fundraising we did in no way helped us; it all went to firewood,” she said. “Some friends and family back home donated gas money which helped, but other than that we did it all ourselves.”
One of the groups that helped fund the firewood was local Keene business D’s Deli, which has both a café and deli. Mason said the café contributed around $25 in cash.
Owner of D’s Deli Darren Humphrey said he gave 10 percent of the money made in sales one night to the students going on the trip. At the event held on Wednesday, Nov. 16, there was a showing the documentary “Before the Flood,” which was produced by actor Leonardo DiCaprio and National Geographic.
He said it was a win-win situation by helping both the students and the café by raising awareness about it’s location.
He declined to comment on his personal feelings towards what has been happening at Standing Rock. However, he said having a good relationship with the college and the outside community of Keene can be beneficial. “Maybe the community can help the college more, but it works both ways,” he said. Humphrey said he plans to show more movies in the future for a while, however, he said it would depend on the situation if any percentage of the sales would be donated.
Mason said D’s Deli wasn’t the only fundraiser. “Our gofundme account (https://www.gofundme.com/standing-rock-satellite) got over $1,200 [and KSC student] Jess Boushie also donated roughly $80 from shirts she made,” Mason said.
Mason said the trip was inspiring. “Personally the best part for me was seeing the sense of community, as well as how united everyone was in such a peaceful manner,” she said. “The media coverage mostly shows the violence and police brutality [and] we honestly had no idea what we were getting into going; we weren’t sure how safe the camp would be, what the vibe would be [like] or how accepted we would be as non-natives. But I have never felt more accepted before in my entire life…it was truly a beautiful experience and feeling.”
Mason stayed on the main camp, Oceti Sakowin, which means Seven Council Fires in the language of Lakota, used by Sioux tribes. “We stayed with a native named Fidel [Moreno], who actually presented his documentary at KSC a few weeks back,” she said. Mason said she and the 10 other KSC students, plus one former student, slept in Moreno’s 18 by 24 foot tipi. “We were so grateful for the tipi because a tent would not have been warm enough,” she explained.
Mason said at one point, she was afraid. “On Thanksgiving, there was a rumor that the camp was going to be raided…people around camp drove in trucks, yelling out the window for women and children to gather…none of us knew what was happening or where the others were, but we all ended up finding each other,” she said.
Mason said they were given two options, to leave the camp or stay. She stayed put. “Everything ended up being fine [and] everyone [was] safe. The camp wasn’t raided and no danger came our way,” she said, “[but] the whole experience demonstrated two things clearly–the fact that danger was a true possibility, but also that the camp was tightly organized, ready to act at any point. They had busses ready for evacuation help and people were ready to help however possible.”
Another member who went on the trip was KSC junior and New Hampshire state representative Joseph Stallcop.
Stallcop said the best part of the trip was getting involved with the tribe’s prayer ceremonies and “experiencing the culture of a people who have stood tall against oppression longer than this country has existed.”
He said that as a student, he went to learn about worldly events. As a State Representative, he said this experience needed to happen in order to provide him with insight on other cultures.
As someone who said he had never been to the Midwest before, Stallcop said, “Besides giving me a larger perspective of the U.S…. I have personally gained insight on issues of corruption and marginalization, as well as the dangers of uncontrolled corporate and governmental power. I hope to bring all of this newfound knowledge with me to Concord,” he said.
Stallcop said this issue is more than “just the loss of tribal land.” He continued, “Environmental destruction, colonization, freedom of the press, government surveillance and police militarization are all themes here. No matter who you are in this country, what is happening there right now affects you.”
Dorothy England can be contacted at email@example.com
Article in this featured series: