Standing Rock a spiritual awakening for Pasqua First Nation, Sask., woman

Danna Henderson of the Pasqua First Nation has just returned from Standing Rock, where she witnessed the front line of the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance.

'It's not a place to go to say that you've been there,' says Danna Henderson

Danna Henderson said the camp is not a place people should go just to say they've been there. (Terray Sylvester/Reuters)

Danna Henderson said the first time she went to the Standing Rock resistance near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, she had a spiritual awakening. 

It was the beginning of September when she first made the trip south with her father and seven-month-old son. 

A spiritual awakening

Protesters led by more than 90 Indigenous groups from across North America have been camping since April at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

"I wasn't expecting anything," Henderson said.

When she saw the solidarity on display, it was an awakening for her. 

"When I got there, it was like I knew where I was meant to be," said the Pasqua First Nation woman. 

Henderson's father was battling cancer after a diagnosis. He had wanted to go to the site after he finished his treatment, she said.

With a renewed sense of duty, Henderson returned to Standing Rock during the weekend. Her father accompanied her both times.

"I feel that the issues of protecting the water was really vital," she said. 

Henderson said that along with the water, people gathered at Standing Rock are also concerned about burial sites, which she says are important to the people and have already been disturbed. 

Tensions in the camps

More than 200 protesters at the site have been arrested so far, and Henderson said there has been tension in the camps. 

She said there are two trains of thought in the encampments. One group wants to push the front lines, while the other wants to keep the peace.

During their most recent trip, Henderson said her father spoke to a group of people and urged them to remain peaceful, saying people from around the continent were watching. 

Henderson said the front lines of the protest were kilometres from the camp, but they have been pushed back to the hills near the actual camp. She said a low-flying plane will frequently pass over the camp, getting lower each time, and no one knows what it is doing. 

She added those who go have to be ready to leave at the drop of a hat or head to the front lines.

"Right now, it's not a place to go to be a spectator," Henderson said. "It's not a place to go to say that you've been there."

With files from The Morning Edition