Ecumenical camp at Standing Rock. Photo credit: Rev. Dr. Brooks Bernt, Environmental Justice Minister, United Church of Christ
Following our trip to Standing Rock, we're working to share the following six thoughts for people contemplating camping out there. If you know anyone who's heading out there or thinking about it, feel free to pass them on.
1) I've never felt more safe than within Oceti Sakowin. Prayerful singing largely drowns out the ever present drone of the police airplane circling the camp at all hours. The front line is another story.
2) Allow at least two nights and a day to appreciate the camp. We were somewhat crunched for time, and it was really hard to leave after only dropping our supplies, eating dinner, camping and then attending the morning prayer ceremony.
3) Be self sufficient, humble, and eager to help. This is a community which functions on the principle of being a blessing and not a burden.
This is REALLY IMPORTANT, and prompted a lot of discussion among the three members of our mission with extensive outdoor education backgrounds. Our consensus, when looking at numerous poorly prepared out-of-towners bundled ineffectively against what was a very mild night for November on the high plains, is that people planning on staying really, REALLY need to come properly equipped. Outward Bound offers an excellent primer on cold-weather camping here, as does REI. This needs to be required reading for anyone heading to the camps for even one night.
4) It's extremely difficult to reliably find anyone you're looking for. Cell coverage is nearly non-existent, and the camp is vast. That said, it doesn't really matter who you find, because most people are on the same page. If you need something, going to the MC tent and asking the elder officiating for help will likely quickly solve your problem and make you new friends.
5) The camps need wood. Bring as much wood as you can, because it's going to be cold this winter. Water is life, but so is heat when you're in a place with an average temperature of 12 degrees in January. Other highly requested items include both large and small propane space heaters and wood fired tent stoves. From what I saw, food and water are fairly easy to come by.
6). Go. This is an impossible place to describe if you haven't been there, and your presence matters. We felt honored by the hospitality of our Sioux hosts.
About the authors: Josie Caton is a professional guide in Big Sky, Montana with over 15 years of experience in a variety of disciplines ranging from mountaineering to dogsledding.
Nate Podgajny is the director of Youth and Family Ministries for Pilgrim United Congregational Church of Bozeman, Montana, a role which he approaches from a lifelong career as a professional snowsports instructor.
They can be found frolicking together in mountain ranges throughout the northern Rockies.