The sun was out and snow covered the ground in front of Pat Wabashaw’s structure she shares with her husband and four children at the Oceti Sakowin Camp.
“It’s handmade with maple wood and iron wood. It’s covered in tarp and an insulated tarp on the top,” Wabashaw said.
Pat, her husband and four boys who range in age from three to 15,
She and her husband sold their house and belonging before driving the family van to North Dakota. Her four boys range in age from three to 15 years. They had first been to the camp for about a week in October.
“When we left to Colorado we just couldn’t stop thinking about (being back here),” she said.
The family is Winnebago and Santee Sioux. She says they wanted to be among other Native people who’ve been living at the camp for months and opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wabashaw says life at the camp is a community atmosphere like it was before settlers came. The family gets up with the sun, works and then goes to bed when the sun goes down.
“Everything was here,” she said. “We had family, our roots, the music, the people, the laughter. I think we have the best jokes, the best punter. Because when we lived in the city we didn’t do those things. We lived in a house, we watched TV, we went out to eat and here it’s different. You have to get up in the morning, you have to collect your wood or you’re going to be cold, you have to cook your food, you have to collect water. It’s different. It’s not the headache it was back home.”
Inside the structure are tents, stoves and a few personal belongings.
“If you see the silver those are survival blankets, so when the heat is in there it bounces off those and forces it back in here.”
A big pot sits on a camping stove near the door with wild rice. She says the rice was gifted to them.
“And it doesn’t take too long. The water just soaks into the rice. I have some beef in here, usually it would be bison. So it’s like a dirty rice.”
Pat says they’re ready to take on the next battle for Indigenous people if and when they leave.