Women’s Liberation Radio News Podcast Transcript
Episode 9: The Women of Standing Rock
transcribed by Caity S.
“Real Voice” by Thistle Pettersen:
But through the hallways of academia
And on the face of the moon
The footprints of conquest
Haven’t left us any room
To say what we think, or
To speak what we know
To hear different voices
At least a sound from below.
Sarah FRAAS: Greetings and welcome to the ninth edition of Women’s Liberation Radio News for this Saturday, January 7, 2017. The team at WLRN produces a monthly broadcast to break the sound barrier women are blocked by under the status quo rule of men. This blocking of women’s discourse and ideas we see in all sectors of society, be they conservative, liberal, mainstream, progressive or radical. The thread that runs through all of American politics is male dominance and entitlement in all spheres. My name is Sarah Fraas.
Today’s program will focus on the women of Standing Rock, their status, and the roles they play in the fight to stop Big Oil and Gas interests from further destroying the Earth’s life support systems. “Standing Rock” currently references a large protest camp out in North Dakota, on Indigenous land, that has drawn thousands of water-protector activists to the region, standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as they fight the Dakota Access Pipeline. We interviewed Christa Bruhn, Shannon Kring, and CJ about their experiences at the camps and actions at Standing Rock. WLRN asks the following questions in this program:
What kinds of conflicts between men and women, and women and women, under patriarchy keep the movement from being unified and effective?
How are women leaders and women in general being treated by each other and the men at the camp?
How are women able to be both water-protector activists at Standing Rock and stand up for the rights and compassionate treatment of women?
What should women’s role be in the fight at Standing Rock all things considered?
How can white women be helpful to the movement without being a colonizing force?
To what extent are all women colonized by all men by virtue of living in patriarchy, and how does that translate into on-the-ground earth activism on the front lines?
These questions and more will be explored in today’s edition of WLRN’s ninth podcast. Stay tuned!
Three-tone headline chime.
FRAAS: And now for our WLRN headlines as read by Nile Pierce.
Nile PIERCE: Late last month, police forces in Norway held a press conference and announced the successful investigation, crackdown, and seizure of what is being called the largest pedophilia ring in world history. Dubbed “Operation Dark Room,” the seizure included over 150 terabytes of data, including films and photos of children as young as 1-month old being raped and violently tortured. Only 20 people have thus far been arrested, but police have confirmed that all of the perpetrators are, in fact, adult men, many of whom are highly educated, some involved in politics at the highest levels, are fluent in IT skills, and are, in many cases, biological fathers of some of the victims.
The United Nations officially withdrew its appointment of Wonder Woman, a pornified, fictional, superhero character from DC Comics as it’s official ambassador for the empowerment of women. The decision came under heavy scrutiny and criticism by women, within and outside of the U.N., who started an online petition to reverse the appointment. The petitioners stated, “It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news, in the United States and the world, is the objectification of women and girls.”
Last Tango in Paris director, Bernardo Bertolucci, revealed that the infamous rape scene included in the iconic film was, in fact, real. An untimely confession to what many women around the world already knew: that he and celebrated actor, Marlon Brando, were, in fact, violent, manipulative rapists, who personally profited off of the suffering of their victim. Before her death, Maria Schneider, the lead actress of the movie and subsequent victim of rape-that-was-filmed, mentioned on several occasions during interviews over the years that the rape scene shown in the movie was, in fact, real, and that it’s filming and worldwide distribution were actually the reasons behind her depression and subsequent suicide attempts over the years. When asked if he regretted the decision to rape Schneider and film it as it was happening, Bertolucci said, stoically, in front of a large studio audience, simply, “No, I do not.”
Kim Dadou, a woman who served 17 years in prison for killing her abusive partner in self-defense, was released from prison in 2008 and has been actively fighting the system that unjustly imprisoned her and other women like her. Thanks to the work Kim has done with domestic violence organizations and advocates, this month, New York state senators will cast their votes on a new bill, called the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which presses for the reformation of oppressive, misogynist laws in place within the criminal justice system, in recognition of the uniqueness of circumstances for abused women. The New York state District Attorneys Association has criticized the bill, claiming that it denies jurisdiction to prosecutors and disrupts “well-established criminal procedures.” However, the New York state Coalition Against Domestic Violence disagrees, noting that it would actually improve the outcomes for abused women involved in criminal cases and would also save the State of New York hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Artemis Singers presents Wanting the Music, a musical-theater production presenting the story of two lesbians who meet at the herstoric Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and return year after year to see changes to the festival and to themselves. Artemis Singers is a lesbian feminist choir based out of Chicago. The choir will sing choral arrangements of songs that were sung at Michigan, while the actors will live through some of our Midwest, lesbian herstory. Original songs by Loraine Edwalds and Allison Downing. Wanting the Music will be performed on January 28th and 29th at the Irish-American Heritage Center on the Northwest side of Chicago. Tickets are available at ArtemisWantingTheMusic.brownpapertickets.com.
WoLF’s complaint in the case of The Women’s Liberation Front vs the United States, a landmark case that argues for the rights of girls and women to bodily privacy, has been stayed pending the Supreme Court’s consideration of the Gloucester vs. G. G. case. WoLF’s complaint argues that the government’s redefinition of sex to mean gender identity for Title IX purposes violates the Administrative Procedures Act and women’s constitutional rights to bodily privacy. The Supreme Court has also granted a judicial review of the Gloucester vs. G. G. case, in which a girl who identifies as a trans boy is demanding access to the boys’ restroom. Several boys have complained that her use of the boys restroom violates their right to privacy. Women’s Liberation Front is the only organization involved in the ongoing legal battles regarding gender identity that is specifically standing up for the rights of women and girls. To donate to the legal fund for these historic, landmark cases, please visit womensliberationfront.nationbuilder.com.
On January 21st, the Women’s March on Washington will take place in Washington D.C. and has already been touted by many news outlets to be likely the biggest anti-Trump demonstration in the United States. Taking place only one day after the inauguration of the president, the march will be echoed by thousands of women attending sister marches the same day in different cities around the world. Radical and lesbian feminists have been voicing concern over the wording organizers are choosing when publicizing these marches. The language used consistently across the broad range of Facebook event pages places emphasis on inclusion of men and trans people. For example, language on the event page for the march in Madison, WI says, “the Women’s March on Madison is a collective voice of all Wisconsin advocates for equality and inclusion. We are committed to fighting for the safety, healthy, and success of our communities. Let no voice go unheard. Let no one live in fear. Let all of us rise up for equal opportunity.” How is this any different than replying “all lives matter” to the slogan “Black Lives Matter?” March organizers for the main event in Washington D.C. are chastising women who object to this wording by “calling out cis privilege” and saying “there will be no tolerance for transphobia.” WLRN encourages you to go to the march in your area with signs that counter this language. Here are some ideas: “Transwomen are men.” “Stop Men’s Rights Activism.” “Cis privilege is a myth. This concept harms real women.” WLRN will have representatives on the ground in Washington D.C., Madison, Seattle, and at the sister march in London. We look forward to including our coverage of these important events in future editions. Stay tuned to our Facebook page and our website for photos, interviews, and video of the marches. Good luck, Sisters! See you in the streets!
And that concludes WLRN’s Headlines for January 7, 2017. We now turn to an interview Thistle Pettersen did with Christa Bruhn last month. Ms. Bruhn is a writer and mother of three Palestinians who lives in Madison, WI. She is working on her memoir on her experiences in Palestine and connecting them to her recent visit to Standing Rock in support of the water protectors, where she volunteered in one the camp kitchens and prepared Palestinian food. The highlight of her trip was her participation in the Silent Prayer Women’s March on November 27th at Standing Rock, where non-Native women created a protective wall around Native women to pray for the Missouri River at the front lines. Here is a portion of that interview.
Christa BRUHN: I’m Christa Bruhn, and I’m a writer. I’m working on a memoir about my experiences in Palestine, over the last 30 years, believe it or not! And it was a week before Thanksgiving that I attended a rally in Madison for the water protectors and that was actually the first rally I attended related to Standing Rock. I was really just so moved by the coming-together of, really, a very diverse group of people around an issue that is so central to all of us: basically, that water is sacred, and we need to protect the water not only for ourselves, Native communities and non-Native alike, but for the world, because it’s really a global problem. Yeah, so, I mean that experience planted a seed in me, and that seed, I would say, it sprouted right away. I was on the phone that day with my brother who lives out in Colorado. We actually traveled to Palestine together 30 years ago, so he was my go-to. I was like “c’mon you want to go to Standing Rock?” One of the medical volunteers that spoke at the rally said that they really need people to cook – you know, they need chefs – at the camp, and I used to have a restaurant in Madison, the Shish Cafe, and decided that I could go to Standing Rock and cook, and that I would. And just because of my connection to Palestine, I decided to bring three Palestinian dishes to prepare there, and I solicited donations from the local community and friends. And I hit the road, and my brother and I met up south of the camp and headed in together. We brought a couple of people with us, and suddenly, basically exactly a week after I attended that rally, I was driving into Standing Rock.
Thistle PETTERSEN: Wow, and this whole movement has kind of been like that. I mean thousands of people have had experiences like yours. They have felt drawn and pulled to go to Standing Rock.
BRUHN: That is totally true. It’s been true for the Native tribes that are there. There are over 300 Native tribes that just felt called to stand with the Standing Rock tribe, with the Lakota Nation at Standing Rock. And then, I met so many people there who also felt called from all over the world — there were people from New Zealand, even. It was amazing. And there were people who came there, and then didn’t know how to leave. They were just still there. And there were other people who went home and then came back, kinda with a one way ticket. They want to stay until the end, which is ’til the Black Snake — which is the Lakota reference to their prophecy that a Black Snake will come and threaten our– the sustainability of life, and so that’s what they’re calling the pipeline. And so people are committed to stay at that camp until the end, or at least continue to support the cause from outside of the camp.
PETTERSEN: Can you talk about what happened when you got to the camp and you asked a Native man if it was okay for you to set up your tent in a certain area?
BRUHN: Yeah! It was – you know, it was amazing. We arrived at the camp. We were welcomed by a woman, actually, at the gate where you enter, and she’s burning sage and says follow along the flag road where all the flags from the different tribes and organizations that have come to support Standing Rock are located. And then we kinda wandered through the camp. Actually the first person we talked to was a guy named, Vic, who’s the one who goes through the camp and “Good Morning, Water Protectors! It’s a beautiful day! You’re here for a reason!” So he walks through the camp every morning at 6 am to wake everybody up. His brother was coming into town, along with a couple other relatives, so the first area we asked to set up, he said, you know, “That’s gonna be taken. This is my brother’s fire right here.” And so he brought us to the next camp, because they’re kinda like neighborhoods of different tribes, and people just kinda find a place to set up. So we asked a guy there if we could set up near their camp, and he said “Just a minute.” And he came back with a woman by the name of Hummingbird, and I told her, I said, “oh, that’s my favorite flower!” And we asked about if we could set up camp with them. And she said that she was on the security team and that there was an area they needed to keep that area clear for security, and so she pointed us to an area nearby where we could set up. But it was interesting because when he brought her out he said, “I have to check with her. She’s the boss. We’re matrilineal here.” And so that was a really a powerful experience to see him defer to her, and, you know, she was not only in charge of her camp she was part of the security team for the whole camp. So that was really educational right there, you know, within our first few minutes of arriving at Standing Rock.
PETTERSEN: Yeah, definitely, so many different tribes and some of them matrilineal. Can you talk about the march, the Women’s March, and how it started from the Seven Council Fire and the woman who lead it?
BRUHN: Sure! There was a whole day – a whole morning, actually – of activities related to the Silent Women’s Prayer March, that started at the very first camp, Sacred Stone Camp, and the women marched from there into the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is where I was living and so we joined the march at that point, walked all through the camp, so that other women could join in, but also to send that energy out into the camp. So we gathered at the Fire of the Seven Nations, basically the seven Sioux tribes, that is symbolic of the whole operation of Standing Rock in the first place, that those tribes have come together for the first time in forever. And the elder woman, Native woman, addressed us and said that we would be marching in silence and in prayer. It was a Native-led march, so that she, obviously, was depending and reaching out to all the women of the camp. She said that we, that all women around the world, have that shared experience of being oppressed or violated. I mean those were not her exact words but that was the message: that we had that shared understanding, and that because of that she could trust us to walk together. And the march was organized in the way that there were a couple rows of non-Native women in the front, surrounding Native women in the center, and then followed by hundreds of other women, non-Native women, who for-sure didn’t want to be arrested. (Laughs.) That was the criteria of being in the front, that you were willing to be arrested if necessary. I did join the front lines. And I felt very strongly about serving in that role, of using my privilege as passing as a non-Native woman to provide protection for those Native women.
And when we arrived at the bridge, it was very interesting, because there were veterans there that were doing their own action. And they were trying to send us back because they said, you know, “It’s not safe for us. You need to turn back. There’s an action already going on.” But then, you know, we were sworn to silence, so we didn’t confront them or say anything. We just stood there, and then when the elder woman motioned for us to continue to move forward, we actually passed through those veterans, and the veterans were like “oh my god, they’re not going to stop! We gotta–” And they tried to form a line to stop us, and it was hopeless. We were hundreds of women, and they were only, like, 20. The actual veterans, the thousands of veterans that would arrive the week after Thanksgiving, were not there yet, so this is a group of veterans that happened to be at the camp, probably mostly Native veterans. And it was amazing, because we kind of just filtered through them, kind of the way water flows, that if you put a barricade, the water will flow around it. Actually, later, one of the Native women did refer to us as a slow-moving river, strong but soft, so we were able to flow through those veterans. And of course the police at the barricade were confused, like “what is going on?” But once they felt our energy and saw us coming in peace and silence and prayer, they actually called off the riot police, and they backed away. And once that happened, there was a quick council between the Native woman, one of the Native elders, and one the veteran elders, because he wanted to understand that this was a council-approved activity, and then those women went forward and did ceremony and prayed at the barricade.
And it was after that – and we, all kneeling, we kneeled down, because she motioned for us to kneel down – we kneeled down and waited in silence. And after that ceremony, they actually opened the barricade, and let these women walk down to the river. And at that point, that’s like an arm of, I believe, the Cannonball River –I’m not exactly sure, but they wanted to pray for the water, for the river. This is an area that was closed off and had been closed off, since October, and so these were the first people who were allowed through. And really it was because we were women, and we came – you know, she told us after the march, as we gathered by the sacred fire at the Oceti Sakowin camp, that when women stand together, they have a very different energy that balances out the testosterone of men. And, you know, one thing she said to us is, you know, look what we have done! We as women need to stop sitting quietly at the kitchen table, so to speak, and get up, you know, voice, stand together, and that we have an important role to play in change. And that we can as effective, if not more effective – in this case more effective, than a group of men coming up to that bridge, which has so far resulted in really unfortunate confrontations, you know, with even water cannons and tear gas and pepper spray and sound weapons and all kinds of things. People have gotten hurt. 550 people have been arrested. We got back to the camp and not one woman was hurt, not one woman was arrested, not one woman, you know, was harassed or shamed in any way. And actually, when we walked back into the camp, and we walked down flag road, which is the first– that’s the way you enter the Oceti Sakowin Camp, you felt the energy of those men bow to us in honor of what we had achieved, and I – this is not like my mind , you know, saying this, but it was clear that there was honor and respect as we came back to that camp and walked into that camp and formed a circle around that sacred fire and had women leaders address us and men stand and listen from the sidelines to what we had achieved and that we are partners in change.
PETTERSEN: Do you have anything else you’d like to say to our radical feminist and lesbian feminist listeners?
BRUHN: I just want to say that you know a lot of the time I was there I was helping out in the kitchen, hanging out with a lot of other Native women, and non-Native men and women, just helping to sustain the effort. That was a powerful experience and certainly there was this sense of “oh, here we are in the kitchen!” And yet I have to say that food, good, healthy, nutritious food, is part of what sustains any movement, and so you know the kitchens are really central to what is going on at the camp. They are taken very seriously. And it was just an honor and a privilege to be there working in the kitchen, working right alongside the Hupa Tribe women from Northern California, who were freezing there right along with us! (laughs) And then to participate in that march the last day I was there, and that was on November 27th, such an honor. And then to see a week later the veterans, 50% men and women, coming from all over the country, to stand up with Standing Rock, and that’s what lead to that denial of the easement. So there is change going on. It certainly takes a lot of thought, and effort and standing together and recognition that we’re up against great odds, but it really has been an honor. And I really feel like it’s a privilege to be able to share my experience with you, Thistle, for this program. I really admire what you’re doing. Thank you for listening and giving me voice to this effort.
“Real Voice” by Thistle Pettersen:
So speak out, speak over, speak under
Speak through the noise
Speak loud so I can hear you
I wanna know you, I wanna hear your real voice
I wanna hear your real voice, your real voice…
FRAAS: And here now is Sekhmet She-Owl with our featured commentary.
Sekhmet SHE-OWL: While the Native struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline is not exclusively female, it speaks to aspects of female struggle that are universal to women: our fight for environmental protection, global-majority women’s fight against white colonialism, our fight against corporate capitalism and the transformation of society into one, big, free market, and even our fight against male violence. Radical feminists of all races, ethnicities, and cultures have good reason to pay attention to the No DAPL movement. It is an opportunity for us to recognize the other areas of the oppression matrix that are inseparable from misogyny and male supremacy. And it is also a lesson in grass-roots political action.
At the heart of Standing Rock’s battle between Native people and the corporate state is white colonialism, a form of oppression that Indigenous people have faced in North America since the first white Europeans set foot on their land hundreds of years ago. Men have been going to war over land and natural resources since the beginning of time, but the story of white-European colonialism in North America, as in other regions of the world, is different. It was racist genocide against hundreds of different Indigenous nations, committed for the purpose of white empire building. This genocide and colonizing process did not take place during one early period of U.S. history, but has been interwoven with the entirety of U.S. history and continues to this day. Even now after the U. S. federal government defined the boundaries of reservation lands given to the surviving first nations and set aside water sources meant for them, these boundaries are violated, the land and its natural resources exploited and ruined by the obscenely rich and powerful fossil-fuel industry.
While the most immediate and material issue at stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline fight is clean water, colonialism’s overall violation of land rights are also part of the Standing Rock picture. Standing Rock Sioux are concerned that the pipeline, while not crossing through reservation land, would disturb sacred Sioux burial grounds that are off the reservation, and in September Dakota Access did indeed bulldoze through an area the tribe believes is sacred ground, seemingly out of spite. When protesters moved to occupy the area surrounding this site, the private security firm Energy Transfer Partners hired used attack dogs and pepper spray against the Native people despite the fact that they were unarmed and people. The incident exemplifies that at the root of colonial oppression is a fundamental disrespect for the colonized, disrespect of their culture, space, and humanity. From the colonizers point of view, it is acceptable to treat the colonized with cruelty, violence and disrespect because colonized people are subhuman. The racial element of thinking cannot be ignored. White Americans have a history of othering Native peoples as savages, of seeing them and mistreating them like animals instead of human beings, all because Native culture is different from white culture, and Native bodies are not white.
When we analyze Standing Rock, we cant stop at the actions themselves. We must consider the meaning and motives of those actions. What we’re really talking about here is male violence, executed against the environment and against Native women throughout the country. Because male violence is universal, consistent across all racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and generational categories, those of us women who are not Native should be able to immediately recognize what’s happening to Native women and empathize with them, even if we don’t share the same specific experiences of being colonized on our ancestral homeland. The male violence visited upon Native women by individual men and by the male-dominated government and corporations that violate their tribal lands is economic, physical, sexual, spiritual, psychological and environmental. It is the poverty on their reservations. It is the drug and alcohol abuse that has come as a result of that poverty. It is the psycho-spiritual wounds they have sustained as colonized women. It is the police brutality that harms kills them at even higher rates than the ones African Americans experience. It is the rape and sex trafficking they endure, frequently at the hands of the white men who work in the fossil-fuel industry and live in man-camps adjacent to drilling and construction sites. It is the poisoned water Native people drink after oil spills and the destroyed sacred grounds they mourn.
Considering that the majority of the world’s women are black, brown, or indigenous, ending white colonialism and white supremacy must be a fundamental goal of radical feminism if it is to be worth anything at all. While white women have historically benefited from the colonialism white men have committed against People of Color, even supported it out of their own self interest, white women do have their own experiences of male violence and the potential is there for white women to reject their own stake in colonialism and get behind Indigenous women who are resisting the oppressive male state. This, in fact, is necessary to a radical feminist revolution that makes a difference on a global scale. We cannot claim to want an end to patriarchy while supporting any branch of male tyranny, because to do so is to leave some women behind. As radical feminists, we should be outraged that peaceful Native women at Standing Rock were attacked with mace and dogs, strip-searched and arrested for no reason, and kept in cages for days after being detained. We should recognize this violence and humiliation for what it is: the same male, state and police brutality that black women experience in the streets, that Latin women experience in immigration detention centers, and that Middle Eastern women experience in their occupied and war-torn countries. Standing Rock is an event worthy of radical feminist attention if for no other reason than that women there suffered male violence and dehumanization, but this male violence is enacted not only out of misogyny but as a tool of colonialism, of white domination, and of capitalist exploitation of the environment.
In our post-industrial, neo-liberal world, heteropatriarchy is virtually inseparable from capitalism, colonialism, ecocide, and white supremacy. Males now exercise their power and domination over the environment and nature using methods that will make our planet uninhabitable all for the sake of financial profit and the power their money can buy. If we want to be safe, free, and healthy as women, and live on a planet that nurtures life, we must attack corporate capitalism, colonialism, environmental destruction, and white supremacy. Patriarchy cannot be isolated from these other forms of male-driven oppression. They feed each other in a circuit reinforcing male power at every level of society. Globalization has unified men across national borders in their greed, violence, and destruction. If women as a class stand any chance of liberation from patriarchal oppression, we must unify against every expression of men’s necrophilic culture, not just the most obvious misogyny.
The job of non-Indigenous women, as members of the colonizer class, is not to talk over or for Native women in their spaces and Indigenous movements, but to go after the white men oppressing Indigenous communities via government, corporations, and sex trafficking. This does not require going to places like Standing Rock. In some cases, it is better for white and other non-Native people to stay out of Native resistance sites. But it does require taking steps to block and rebel against the white, male state, corporations, police and the fossil-fuel industry. We can and should support Native women politically, financially, emotionally, and physically with our vote, resources, dollars, presence, friendship, and voices, but they must lead their own movement against white-supremacist, capitalist colonialism and the men who oppress them in their own communities. They along with all other colonized women must lead and the rest of us must follow, turning our backs on male culture and putting the welfare of colonized women first.
Standing Rock is an excellent example of collective, organized direct action necessary to beat the oppressor classes. It shows us the realities of taking direct political action, the backlash, the personal risk, the amount of time required to see results, and proves that doing so works despite the difficulty and waiting involved. After almost a year of water protectors standing their ground, the federal government denied Energy Transfer Partners an easement for construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River. Grassroots, collective action against the oppressor achieves the results that individual political action does not. The lack of collective, organized action against male power is arguably radical feminism’s biggest weakness today, and we should take Standing Rock to heart as a call to our own 21st century mobilization.
SONG: “Sing Our Own Song” by Buffy Sainte-Marie
PIERCE: Sarah Bar-Fraas recently spoke to CJ a 21-year-old, Native student and radical feminist who journeyed to Standing Rock recently in support of the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. While protecting the water through protest, she was maced by police. Here is a portion of that interview.
CJ: I’m from the Wakashina tribe in Montreal. My mother is Abenaki. My father is white, so I’m mixed. But I had a very strong connection, especially with my family, growing up. They all moved down here, and we all go to powwows at least three times a year. We’re all very much involved with our tribe, and my mother was on the tribal council for a long time. It was just always integrated within my life to be proud of who I was. I was very much anti-feminist growing up, but I had strong, positive female role-models, especially within the community that I grew up in. I didn’t become a feminist until I went to college and was exposed to it. I didn’t become a radical feminist until about two years ago. I read a few of Andrea Dworkin’s excerpts, and I actually had a college professor who was a radical feminist and was a separatist, and was very much my mentor, in the sense that I didn’t really know a lot about feminism, and she guided me through a lot of what I believe now.
I do have a few friends who lived out in North Dakota for a long time and had access to people there, just to spread the word. A couple of them actually go to the college that I go to. And we were talking over it one day, and she had gotten some messages from family members that it was still going on. And it blew up a little bit in the media, and I learned more about it from there, too. But that was my first understanding of it. I mean it’s very personal to me, because my own tribe, the Abenaki tribe, does not have land anyone that is government sanctioned. Because of our land, it was heartbreaking for me to see another tribe have to go through the pain and the anguish that it is to lose burial sites, to lose land that was promised to you.
I was there for a week. I went with a few relatives, and I went with a couple friends. I am not opposed to white protesters coming with us. I appreciate the ally-ship, and I think diversity is key, especially we need our white allies. I was there for a week, and during that time, I went to about four actual protest areas. The camp itself is family-friendly. There are children there. There are families there. That is not where the actual protest is going on. The Standing Rock camp that I was at, there are about four of them that are along about a three-mile radius, right by the river. So where the actual river itself is that we are defending, we were camped on that river, and immediately on the other side – there’s maybe a mile between us – were the police officers.
Once a day, we would go out the the river. We would pray. Prayer is especially important to us, because it is our connection to the earth, our connection to the earth is very important to us as a people. We did a lot of praying. But we also did a lot of protesting. And at the request of the elders, it was peaceful. We didn’t retaliate at all towards the cops. Which was especially frustrating, because I did get tear gassed, and I got maced. I am not one to be submissive and silent, so I definitely struggled with being peaceful. But it was what had to be done. It was, in all honesty, very terrifying. But when I was not protesting at the camp, there were a lot of chores to do, and a lot of people who came there didn’t realize that that was what had to be done. It was a community in a sense. So I did a lot of cooking. That’s what my skill set was. A couple people that I was with were building. There was a school being built on the camp. But yeah, it was just a variety of things to be taken care of. We had to take out trash. We had to clean toilets, which was awesome. (laughs) But yeah, there was a lot of different stuff to do at the camp. It was basically just taking care of each other.
I had never experienced police brutality in the sense that I didn’t understand why they hated us. The first night that I was there, thirty police officers turned in their badges because of the violence that was being enacted against us. We had no weapons on us. Upon my arrival of camp, our car was searched, and it was definitely because we were brown and we looked suspicious. But our car was searched for weapons for over two hours in the cold, and we were not allowed inside our car. We had to have our hands up on the car, facing away from it. It was just ridiculous. We specified they had no right to search our car. They had no probable cause. We specified that we were protesters, and we had brought with us 18 cases of water. And that we were there to help out, and we were there to bring supplies. We weren’t there to do violence, especially after the elders had warned us “if you bring weapons into the camp, you will not be here.” They were very specific. And the police officers wanted to intimidate us. They wanted us to be afraid. They would not let us through a road that is a public road, and it was part of the entrance to the camp. There was only about two ways to go about getting into the camp, and it was a highway. They had blocked off the road completely and wouldn’t let people go through. So we had been driving for about thirteen hours at that point. We needed a place to sleep. We needed to get into the camp, and the police made it just impossible. And I think they wanted to intimidate us and to just weaken us in that sense.
It is important to me as someone who has a connection with my spirituality and a connection to the land that water is, essentially, a part of life. This is our land. This is our water, and we have a right to it, just as anyone else has a right to their own water. And it was especially important to me as a water protector that the pipeline was originally routed through an area that was predominantly white, before it was deemed unsafe, and unsafe for their water supply. My question to the people who still think that the pipeline is okay is that why is our water supply not as valuable?
Native people are not valued within society. Our lives are not treated the same as white citizens are. We are definitely degraded and dehumanized upon law enforcement, especially our Native women. Native women are especially brutalized by police, not as much in the U.S. as it is in Canada, but definitely dehumanized and brutalized. What I think a lot of people don’t understand is that Native women are subjected to sexual assault, rape, that are different, or in a way they are worse than white women’s. We are subject to sexualized violence in different ways, especially because Native women are fetishized. We are definitely, as women of color, sexualized differently. I would attribute that to just how we are portrayed. Our culture is a costume to people. When you see Native women online, it’s basically just white women in headdresses, and it has no respect for what our culture is. And I think that the relation is similar to that men have learned to view us, especially through pornography, as sex objects, we are fetichized differently than white women are.
FRAAS: How were you treated? What was the role of women at these water-protector camps?
CJ: I want to speak no ill-will toward our culture, but it is very patriarchal. Women are not given the same roles as men are. Men are the ones to take care of us. There were women speaking there. The first day I was there, there was a woman speaking there, and giving us basically our daily pep-talk, I guess, in a sense, before prayer. And I definitely think that we are not given the same roles that men are within these communities and within these protest communities especially. My interactions with women were through cooking. We were basically designated in the kitchen, and the men were the ones working on the schoolhouse and doing the heavy labor. Not that I am not able to do heavy labor, that I just the role I was assigned while I was there.
FRAAS: I see. Do you think that if you had asked to do, sort of what was being considered the men’s work, that they would’ve been okay with that?
CJ: I’m sure they would’ve been surprised, but they would’ve been fine with it. It was just I did what was expected of me, was respectful of the fact that this was not my community. And, while I am Indigenous, this is a different community than my own, and I need to be respectful of the elders and how they wanted things run.
FRAAS: In general, do you view women in Native resistance movements being leaders?
CJ: Yes, I think that there are ways that we have been leaders, and that there are ways that we are leaders, and especially during protests. We are given, at least, the same voice, like we are not silenced at our protests. I felt like when I was there that, as a Native woman, I had a voice there.
SONG: “Mother” by Ulali
PIERCE: To conclude today’s podcast, we’ll hear an excerpt from an interview Sekhmet She-Owl did with Shannon Kring, creator and producer of the upcoming feature documentary, End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock. Shannon is the Emmy-award-winning producer of the reality cooking series The Kitchens of Biró, a United Nations world tourism organization liaison for Honduras, and Honduras’ good-will ambassador, and the author of five books. Here’s a portion of that interview.
SHE-OWL: Having been at Standing Rock, for how long?
Shannon KRING: I’m starting my fifth month now, so not as long as the women, but in terms of the journalists, when we were initially out there, we were one of three. (laughs) So, now there are thirty-eight crews who have checked in at Standing Rock.
SHE-OWL: So having been there for several months, and having seen, in person, the interactions between the water protectors and the government, the company behind the pipeline, police, et cetera, do you think that there is an element of misogyny to the treatment and, in some cases, assault of the water protectors.
KRING: Absolutely! It is absolutely repulsive what’s been happening there, and how that, again, just is not getting the attention. And that comes from these people who are completely clueless, who run media, and either, just have no idea, like the thirty-four guys I met with, or they have been silenced by the people who are running the ads on their various networks. But the fact is that, while filming, I have had — oh so many things have happened to these women! So, early on, one of my interviewees had been assaulted on the front lines. There’s actually video of this, where a law enforcement officer actually grabbed her by her left breast and started pulling on her with her breast. She was fighting him off. He then went over to her right breast, moved his hands off and went – five times – he moved his hands back and forth and was pulling on her so forcefully, and then sprayed her with mace in the mouth and in the eyes. Another instance that happened was actually, one of the daughters of one of the leaders, she was held for two days in her cell nude. They did not giver her her jumpsuit. They did not permit her any clothes, and they just kept interrogating her. All of the women who were arrested had to strip in front of officers, male officers. Many of them had to be checked, get body checks, to make sure that they were not hiding weapons inside themselves. They had to – they all showed me how that worked, how they had to squat down and be inspected. I had two women during the course of this who have had their children taken away for just completely bogus accusations. And I’ve had one of them held in a dog kennel, when they arrested so many people that they did not have the jail cells available, so she was kept like a dog and denied bathroom privileges for many hours. I could go on. Without a doubt, there are some really horrible things happening, which brings me back to, how are these women remaining so strong? They have hope, somehow. That’s what I am exploring with this documentary.
SHE-OWL: So do you think that, you know, not just in the sense of misogynistic violence and abuses, but just generally, would you say that even though this is an experience that entire tribes are having together, both males and females in communities? That Native women have a unique experience not just of not just the Standing Rock situation but, even on a larger scale, of white colonialism?
KRING: Absolutely. That’s I guess the heart of what I’m exploring, with End of the Line. These things are happening off-Standing-Rock, off-reservation. They’re happening in, let’s say, Bismark. There have been instances of these man-camps that they’re called. Whenever pipelines or mines come into a community, they set up these camps where the men live. And it’s very easy to research what happens when that contingent moves into a community. Violence goes up. Sexual assaults go up, and crime in general. And there’s actually a rule – a law – about how few of these man-camps you can have in a certain amount of miles. That’s been violated in North Dakota, and you see it there, you see it elsewhere. Because I’m telling a bigger story than Standing Rock, I’ve been interviewing in other communities, in other states. I’m seeing it everywhere.
This is not new to the Native people, men or women. That’s one of the very first interviews I did. One of the women, who is one of the original founders of the American Indian Movement and the founder of Women of All Red Nations, she is in her 70’s now and a lifelong activist. And at one point, she looked at me, and said, “This is new to you white people. This is not new to us. You are just learning of this now. We have endured 523 years of this.” And they don’t see that ending, really, which is really interesting, again, going back to the hope and the resilience. They don’t really think it’s going to end, because as they’ve explained, that’s just part of their narrative at this point.
But I see the treatment no matter where I am. I saw it growing up, and that’s probably one of the things that inspired me to start studying, as a young teenager, with Native people in my home state of Wisconsin, because I saw that you could commit violence against them, you could beat them up, you could hold a gun to their head, where I came from, because they were allowed spear-fishing rights, and the white guys weren’t. These things happen, and then of course, I see the treatment I get, versus my Native sisters. So, because I’m traveling so much, I had an instance not long ago actually, where I had two Native women and a man escorting me through near where the pipeline was being constructed. Now, she was stopped, she was harassed. I was as well. I was followed by a helicopter for an hour, one of the DAPL main helicopters was going right over the car, coming at the car, flying so dangerously low, but she was the one who was questioned, whenever we were stopped. And I’ve since been with her other times: same thing. I’m just let go through any checkpoints, any barriers. They treat me so nicely: “Have a great day!” Or they’ll say things, law enforcement, whenever I’ve been interrogated, at the end they’ll say “Be careful! You have to be very careful there. Do you know what’s really going on there? Why would you go there?” And, going back to the meetings that I had with the media people, at one point, I was meeting with someone, because I was trying to get an actor to back this project with his social media, or however he would, and his manager said to me “that would be career suicide for him. I wouldn’t allow that to happen, and you really should think about this too. This could be career suicide for you.” And then he leaned in and said “And really, Shannon, is this really your problem anyway?” My thought is “absolutely!” As someone who is born white, and therefore privileged in the United States, I think it’s more my problem than anyone else’s, and I wish that everyone who makes comments, as I’ve been told, by many, many white people as of the making of the film, “oh, they’re all just a bunch of drunks,” or “oh, they’re drug addicts,” or whatever nasty comments are made, I wish that all of them could have one day, as I do, working beside them and seeing the different treatment. It’s shocking.
SHE-OWL: So would you say, based on what you’ve heard from so many different Native women, would you say that those of us who are not Native, you know, non-Native women, especially non-Native radical feminists who see their struggle and want to support them and help them, would you say that the best thing we can do for them is to rebel against colonialism?
KRING: Oh, yes. I mean, colonialism is what they’re constantly bringing up, that this is the result of colonialism, and I guess, what continue to say is that it means a lot to them just to be given a seat at the table, so to speak, to have their voices heard. And we keep saying this, and everything, on social media. We’re active on Facebook, and we post documentary shorts, little excerpts of what we’ve been capturing along the way. And what you hear over and over again, you know, is just “please, help give a voice.” They just want a voice.
FRAAS: That concludes WLRN’s Edition 9 podcast for January 7, 2017. On behalf of all of the women at WLRN, we wish you a happy new year. If you’d like to get in touch with us, please send an email to email@example.com. We still need donations to get station shirts. Please consider donating $20 or more to support this campaign. We only need $200 or more to get a stock of station shirts that we will use for prizes and giveaways to continue to get the word out about our station and radical feminism. It’s easy! Just click on the donate button, make your donation on our website, and indicate what size shirt you’d like for your chance to win. After we have raised enough money to order the shirts, we will draw the names of two lucky winners to send shirts to. Thanks again for tuning in to WLRN, your radical feminist source for news and commentary in the femisphere.
SHE-OWL: And I am Sekhmet She-Owl. Thank you for tuning in. If you’d like to volunteer for WLRN, please take a look at our volunteer tab on our website and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are in need of editors, transcript writers, website designers, reporters, headline writers, and more.
PIERCE: And this is Nile Pierce, signing off of our 9th edition of WLRN’s podcast for January 2017. Stay tuned next month on Thursday, February 2nd, when we explore questions of solidarity, self-love, and sisterhood, as mainstream culture promotes Valentine’s Day, a holiday often associated with models of romantic love that can be damaging to women.
PETTERSEN: And this is Thistle Pettersen, signing off for now. Today’s podcast was produced by Jenna Di Quarto. Thanks again for tuning in to WLRN.
“Michigan” by Thistle Pettersen:
But how will we find our way out of this?
What is the antidote for the patriarchal kiss?
How will we find what needs to be shown?
And then after that
Where is home, tell me
Where is my home?
Cos gender hurts….