Standing tall for Standing Rock: Rally, benefits planned to support tribes, 'water protectors'

Posted 11/1/16

Gary Buckman, who owns Big Wolf Trading Co. in downtown Port Townsend, closed his cubby-hole-sized shop for two weeks in October to be part of what he considers history.

Gabriel Sky felt it was so …

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Standing tall for Standing Rock: Rally, benefits planned to support tribes, 'water protectors'


Gary Buckman, who owns Big Wolf Trading Co. in downtown Port Townsend, closed his cubby-hole-sized shop for two weeks in October to be part of what he considers history.

Gabriel Sky felt it was so important to be part of the Dakota Access Pipeline uprising that he borrowed $3,000 so he could pay his rent in Port Townsend while he was in North Dakota.

And Terry DeBeau is planning to spend a chunk of an inheritance from her father, who died only a month ago, to get to North Dakota. She's also trying to raise money to bring as a donation when she heads out to Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in mid-November.

Thousands of people from across the country are hosting hometown rallies or going to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to join an effort to block an oil company from building an underground pipeline 1,172 miles from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. The pipeline would transport 460,000 barrels of crude oil a day, according to Energy Transfer's website at

Opposition to the pipeline has grown as Native Americans have voiced concerns about the impact of possible leaks into the Missouri River and onto lands they consider sacred.


So why are people from Port Townsend rallying and leaving their warm homes this winter to join a gathering so far away?

“I don't know that I could explain it except that we are a caring community,” said Gabriel Sky.

“I could probably make a connection between this action and every problem the planet is having right now,” Sky said, rattling off issues involving oil, greed, how people treat the planet and how people treat each other.

Sky was at Haller Fountain playing his guitar earlier this year, trying to get over his fear of playing in public. He put out a basket for donations to send to Standing Rock.

As he was playing, a woman gave her two young boys money for the wishing well. Instead of making a wish, one of the boys put his money in Sky's guitar case for the tribe.

“I decided I couldn't not come here. The goal of this specific action is to stop a pipeline from coming through. When it leaks, it will contaminate the water for 10 million people. That's what I've heard: 10 million, 17 million,” Sky said several weeks ago while in North Dakota where he was part of a community of 9,000 people in Bismark.

Sky volunteered to be what he calls “an arrestable,” someone who is willing to stand up to law enforcement and wait to be arrested, if necessary.

“I was looking them in the eye and sending them peace and love for three hours as an arrestable,” said Sky of standing toe-to-toe with 50 to 60 officers. “I've done it two times now.”

Sky said he thought of the officers as his sons, as guys who just want to be home watching football, not as police officers.

“This is important to me. It's very important. This is the tipping point. It's going to lead us to a better, brighter future for all of us,” he said of the demonstrations.

Although he borrowed $3,000 to get to go to North Dakota, Sky now wants to raise money to buy a van in the next few weeks and go back to North Dakota and support the tribe.

He'll need gear to survive sub-zero winter weather.

“It could end tomorrow. Everything changes daily,” he said Tuesday morning.

On his site called “Wheels of Change,” Sky wrote that he would continue to support Standing Rock and “continue on the road to spread the lessons that my hosts have shared with me.”


Fresh from a permaculture conference at Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island, which she helped organize, Terry DuBeau sees the protest as being of service to the world at large.

“My biggest issue is that I'm tired of what we are doing to the earth and I don't want to see pipelines going across reservation land,” she said.

DuBeau is set to leave some time in mid-November and take a variety of things, from a treadle sewing machine to firewood.

DuBeau said her father, Frank DuBeau, died Sept. 12 in Pennsylvania.

“My father loved the water. He fished and he cared about the oceans and the earth,” DuBeau said. “He would be honored that I would be spending his money this way.”

DuBeau also hopes to bring her permaculture – as in permanent culture or permanent agriculture or sustainable living – to North Dakota.

By that, she means she's hoping people bring their carpentry skills and use tools that do not require electricity.

“The whole purpose of my going is to serve them. They know what they need and so often it changes between now and when we arrive. If they ask me to cook, I'll cook. If they ask me to chop firewood, I'll chop firewood.”


Gary Buckman, who owns Big Wolf Trading Co. in Port Townsend on Taylor Street, recently returned from Standing Rock after closing his business for two weeks. He said Oct. 28 he'd do it again.

Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship did a fundraiser to help him and his wife, Hannah, make the trip.

“This is our living. We don't get per capita payments,” Buckman said of his business. “But there are more important things than making money. This is a historic event. It's very important not just to Standing Rock but to millions of people downstream.”

“People don't want to drink oil,” he said. “We all need water to survive.”

Buckman grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation and is a member of the Lakota tribe. He sees what's happening at Standing Rock as a generational battle.

“This has been going on for 500 years. The Indian wars are not over yet. They are still trying to destroy us in many ways,” said Buckman, an artist and a drum maker.

Buckman isn't sure how many people were at the camp with him, but seeing so many Native Americans from so many different tribes connect felt good, he said.

“It was good to see all kinds of brown people. It did my heart good. A camp like that is tight. Everybody smiles and nods and asks you how you are and mean it.”

The gathering, he said, is not structured. And like others who have gone, Buckman does not call it a protest.

“They are water protectors. It is a way of life. This isn't something new. It's the way we do things.

“When you are there, you are in prayer. You wake up in the morning and they are singing and praying and there is a fire burning 24/7. It is a sacred fire, a prayer fire.”

It's not uncommon, he said, for someone to shout out “Mni Wiconi” – pronounced Mini We Cho Knee – which means “water is life.”

Buckman, who was part of the American Indian Movement decades ago, enjoyed talking to young “securities,” as he calls them, young people who are asked to be the group's ears and eyes, patrolling and providing security.

“They are not here to look good or to look tough. You are there to help people,” he said.

Buckman didn't see any violence during his visit. At one point, law enforcement retreated when tribal members approached them to pray. But Oct. 28, he was hearing of violence and it worried him.

What the tribe needs now, he said, is donations of money.

“They need lawyers fees, they need bail money, money to buy gas, money to operate. We're Indians. Money wasn't our idea, but we can do it, too,” he said.

As for why people in Port Townsend are so interested in what's happening miles and miles away, he said, “because we're surrounded by water.

“This has more of an appeal because it is universal. It's not just a bunch of Indians over here fighting for their rights. It's people standing up for the water and standing up for the future and their children and everybody wants to protect their children.”

Buckman's advice to those who want to go is simple:

“It's about freedom where everybody finds their own place. My advice to all people who go there is to keep your mouth shut, your eyes open and your hands full. Full of what? Whatever needs to be done," he said.

“You have to be really present. Don't stand around and be a tourist. This is not for dilettantes. It can be an eye-opening experience. And don't expect to solve anything. One person is not going to solve it. When we all get together, that's when real change happens.”


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