At the beginning of November I had become overwhelmed with posts on Facebook about the situation that was happening up in North Dakota at Standing Rock. I am sure that I am not the only one whose feed was full of posts and shares about what was going on up there. I had just spent time with some good friends and my family and I was full of happiness. I read all that I could in various sources to try and figure out what was fact and what was fiction regarding the pipeline and what the Lakota people were doing what they were being subjected to. I decided I needed to go there and see for myself, I also came to the conclusion that I couldn’t go against my nature and simply do nothing. I raised some money to buy medical supplies and headed North. One of the things I was looking for was to reshoot a photograph that I had taken back in late May or early June along that stretch of the Missouri River. I drove up the Eastern side of the river so that I could shoot that image again and see if there was a difference, there was. A lot more new fences and some razor wire was now in place where I had been before. I continued up to Bismarck and figured I would head down hwy 1806 to Cannonball. Just North of Fort Rice I was stopped at a road block that was manned by sheriff’s deputies and armed National Guard soldiers and an armed Humvee alongside of the Jersey barriers that were blocking the road. I still don’t understand why they were there. I doubled back to Bismarck and took county road 6 down to hwy 24 and cut over to 1806 where I was able to get to my destination. I set up camp and headed to the Sacred Stone Camp to deliver the supplies I had bought to the medics and healers there. The main camp, Oceti Sakowin was where I found what I was looking for. The camp is big complex of teepees, tents, campers and various structures. The sense of prayerful intention and human kindness was everywhere I turned and every person I met was kind and generous. I was able to pitch in and help the camp organizers a little tiny bit and that was good. At one point, I came across a guitar teacher from Minnesota who was building a traditional wigwam for some Native Americans coming down from his neck of the woods to spend the winter at camp. I had a very good experience helping Geoff build this structure and talking with him for a couple of days. I was reminded that it is important to be kind always, to accept kindness always and to be open to other perspectives. I didn’t stay as long as I perhaps should have, I made some pictures with the 5x7 camera that captured the landscape and some of the particulars of the point in history that I was a witness to. I was not allowed to bring the airstream into camp for reasons that I understood and agreed with so I was set up down the road and despite being there early and staying late for those days I never felt as though I was fully engaged. It nagged at my edges and I decided to leave. I had come and been a witness, I had discovered for myself what the truth was and I had helped one very kind man to build a shelter that I knew could withstand the North Dakota winter and would keep the occupants warm and dry. Regardless of where you are politically, when you take it down to a human to human level, what is happening there at Standing Rock is an outrage. There are thousands of American Citizens being denied their constitutional right to assemble and to peacefully protest. The Water Protectors are interested in saving the Missouri River from a future oil spill that could result in the poisoning of my own mother’s water supply. I have seen firsthand the level of militarized positioning that the local law enforcement is deploying against the American people in North Dakota. It troubles me greatly.
After leaving Bisbee AZ I headed North again and visited Roswell on the way to Pueblo to fish the Arkansas River on my way back to Kansas City to meet up with my friends and participate in the American Royal World Series of BBQ. Roswell was as weird as I had hoped it would be but I didn't get to see a ufo in the sky or meet an alien but I still believe.
The weekend of friendship and competition was a wonderful reunion of old friends and chance to meet new ones. I had the pleasure of meeting the guys from Smokin Yankees, a competition BBQ team from Belfast Northern Ireland, they were in the states to compete in the big Jack Daniels contest and the American Royal. Michael Connor and Stuart are good guys who make one hell of a good slab of ribs. They have been traveling the states relying on the kindness of others for their equipment, a hail Mary of an adventure that I whole heartily support. On Saturday morning I was over talking with them and was able to put the pieces together that they didn't actually have anything to eat other than BBQ. Now some of you might be thinking that what's the problem with that? I can tell you that after days of smoking meat one sort of looses an appetite for it to be eaten at every meal. My team had secured a big enough booth space that I had parked the airstream in our spot and we were using it as our kitchen and bunkhouse. I had eggs, bacon, tortillas and a couple of skillets and my Coleman cook stove handy so I just took the whole mess over and asked that they return the pan and stove at some point. On Sunday morning I was able to find a Youtube video of a Northern Ireland pipe band playing Amazing Grace so I hooked it up through my teams old school Yamaha stereo amp and blasted out our corner of the speedway for the guys from Ireland. They appreciated the gesture immensely. Neither of our teams scored very well but that's how it goes in BBQ, you never know what the judges are going to like from one event to the next.