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By Antonia Gonzales
The Oceti Sakowin Camp is in transition as extreme winter weather and requests by the Standing Rock Sioux chairman and others are prompting people to leave. Camp organizers closed the camp to new arrivals as another major blizzard approaches.
Lucas Mullikin from Flagstaff, Arizona was folding a tarp and packing up his tent Thursday morning. He was there for about a week. This was his third visit. Mullikin said the winter weather created some challenges.
“Definetly the first blizzard out here in North Dakota I’ve experienced,” Millikin said. “Up late listening to the radio, missing peoples’ reports and going on search parties, helping look for people who got misplaced in the snowstorm. Stressful, but a really big sense of community that brought everyone together.”
Aaron Bercovitch from San Diego was with Mullikin and a couple other people. This was the Californian’s first time to the camp. He says leaving now is the right thing for him.
“I never felt endangered by the snowstorm per se, but I did realize that I’m not fully prepared for it and so I figured I’m not here to become a burden,” Bercovitch said. “I’m here to support.”
The Crow Creek Spirit Riders were also packing up. Mason Rockwood from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe says they’re leaving not because anyone asked them to, but they’re participating in a memorial horse ride elsewhere. They plan to return to camp in January. Rockwood says bringing the horses to the camp is an important part of showing support to Indigenous people.
“We also knew we wanted to bring our horses because that is how we show our support as Dakota people, Lakota people, Nakota people,” Rockwood said. “The horses are a huge part of our culture and we just felt like they needed to be here to share this journey with us.”
They held a ceremony before riding out with about nine horses.
James Thomas, Paiute from California, was chopping wood inside the camp. He’s been here for about two weeks and says he’s not going anywhere.
“Just because one (tribal) councilor said to leave that’s not all of them and we all have motivations to stay because we’re all accepted here,” Thomas said. “Of course if you’re scared of the cold and are not prepared then by all means leave or if you have other family matters then go home. But we’re all here to stay and be a part of this revolution.”
Thomas is living in a longhouse with about 15 people. He says they’re hunkering down for the winter. Challenges they’re facing include needing more fire wood, and their water and food freezing.