A day in the life at Standing Rock

Unreserved's producer Kim Wheeler travelled down to Standing Rock with team members Erica Daniels and Stephanie Cram and found Tiar Wilson along the way. This is Kim’s account of her time at Standing Rock.
Unreserved's Kim Wheeler and Erica Daniels interview LaDonna Brave Bull Allard whose land the Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock site on. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

Unreserved's producer Kim Wheeler travelled down to Standing Rock with team members Erica Daniels and Stephanie Cram and found Tiar Wilson along the way. This is Kim's account of her time at Standing Rock.

We arrived around 9 p.m. at night. Before we got there I did a lot of research and reading on what was going on. And some of it, I have to be honest, I didn't believe.

I had seen one photo online that showed bright lights shining from the top of a hill across the river and directed at the camp. I thought that image looked photoshopped and didn't believe those lights were there. But they are.
Lights near where the Dakota Access Pipeline is being built shine over the camps at Standing Rock, North Dakota. (Facebook)

The camps at Standing Rock are about 45 minutes south of Bismark, North Dakota. It is on and across from reserve land. It is rural and wild. At night when the sun goes down it should be pitch black with a million stars overhead.  

But the lights light up enough of the night sky that it blocks out some of the stars. And those lights are where the pipeline is being built.

We decided to get the full effect of what was happening at Standing Rock and to bring you the best stories, we slept right in the camps in tents we had brought with us.

I had heard planes circle the camps at night. This was another thing that I didn't believe. After all, this is America, the home of the free.   

Every night as people are getting ready to go to sleep, a prop plane begins its nightly surveillance of the camp. It circles for hours, until I suppose it runs out of gas. Then returns, presumably to a nearby airport, to refuel and begin flying again at dawn.

Each day begins with an elder on the camp's PA system who wakes everyone up.  

"Wake up! Pipe carriers, sun dancers, water protectors, Christians. Get up! This is what we're here for!"
Frost hugs the ground in the valleys at Standing Rock, North Dakota. (CBC)

The voice cuts across the sleepy camp at 6 a.m. each day. The November air is cool, but we have picked a good week to travel because by noon the sun is shining in the clear blue sky and the temperature has soared to a comfortable 17 degrees Celsius. 

Everyone takes care of everyone at the camp. And people from all over the world have been sending donations of food, warm clothes, even feed for the horses that are there.

One night we saw a guy come along in a pick-up truck. Someone had gone hunting and brought in a freshly killed deer. It has been skinned and cut up and he just drove through the camp and offered up the meat to people. Men gathered around, selecting the pieces they wanted and they took them back to their fires to cook for dinner that night.

Just being there in the camps with teepees all around and several of the protectors on horseback — I can imagine this is what life would have been like pre-contact.

The energy in the camp from all the nations that are there is a very powerful force. I have never experienced anything like that before. 

I don't think you can spend anytime at Standing Rock and come out of there unchanged.
Overview of the Oceti Sakowin camp, the main camp, at Standing Rock, North Dakota. (CBC)