A first-person account of the cultural renaissance happening at Standing Rock.

This story is from Tony Sorci, a member of the Navajo nation, about his time spent as a protester at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, as told to Upworthy. It has been edited for content and clarity.

Every morning at 10 o'clock, I walk into the water and say my prayers.

Some people jump into the water, wash their faces, and come right out. It's cold. But I spend a lot of time in the water because that's how I was raised — to say my prayers in the water no matter how cold it got in North Dakota.


How long will I be able to get in that water and pray, when it's still safe?

A water protector goes out to the river for a swim. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

I heard about Standing Rock at a tribal conference in Washington state last summer. I figured going there was my duty to my grandmother.

I'm half-Navajo and half-Italian-American, from Big Mountain Reservation, originally Black Mesa, in Arizona. My grandmother was Roberta Blackgoat, the renowned relocation resister — she never signed anything, never left the land. I've been living with her as my hero for a long time.

Native Americans usually follow their mother's side, so over the years I've become more traditional in that way. There's a direct correlation between how we treat our mother and what our children are doing to themselves.

The Colorado River in Arizona, near the Big Mountain Rez. Photo by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images.

For me, it's really sad that we've gotten to this point.

Our grandmas are out there praying for clean water, and the government is mistreating them.

There's a psychological war going on in Standing Rock: Just across the water, a couple hundred yards away, there are DAPLs (the term water protectors use for the private security and heavy machinery crews hired by the pipeline company) armed to the gills with itchy fingers waiting for some action.

But this isn't a game. It shouldn't be fun. What are they protecting? Who are they protecting? Who are they serving?

The DAPLs are obviously put in a predicament because they do have to feed their families. Obviously, if they're going to disobey orders, they're not going to be getting paid.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

For a lot of people, money is the driving force when it comes to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

So our goal, as protesters, is to hit their wallets with peaceful and nonviolent direct action. With each action, DAPLs will be forced to respond — which costs them money.

The organizers of the protest gather in the mornings at the the Big Camp and divide tasks, figuring out what will be the most beneficial. Many of us drink coffee around the fire in the morning with our gas masks already on, ready to go.

We aim to enact around 10 actions a day. Some people might go up to Bismarck, some stay at camp, some might protest on the bridge. My job has been canoeing on the water, trying to get the attention of the DAPLs and spreading them out a little. Then there are more covert ops, like gathering intel about where the police snipers are, or about the pipeline workers who try to disguise themselves as water protectors.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

When I know they have nonlethal weapons, I'm not afraid.

I'm a big guy, and things don't hurt me like they hurt other people.

I grew up playing lacrosse, and the closest thing to hand-to-hand combat is getting hit in the chest with a lacrosse ball at 100 mph. So I know they're gonna ding me up a little bit, but I'm here to protect the people. While I protest, I wear turquoise. I'm Navajo and we're supposed to wear our best jewelry when we travel.

Spiritually, I'm where I need to be: saying my prayers in the water, being loving and caring, and not letting fear creep in. Because if I do that, what about the other people who are anxious? Who are they going to look up to?

A Navajo veteran, wearing his protective turquoise. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

It's not all organized, though. There are some young kids and gung-ho guys who wanna prove themselves as protesters and show how brave they are.

Not everyone sees as clearly as others. But that's what we're trying to get to.

One day, a white guy walked up to the communications tent all ready to go with two hoodies on and a big puffy jacket. He couldn't even put his backpack on; it was hanging down to his butt, and I just had to laugh. Is he using more resources than he brought here?

Another day, we were at the base of a sacred burial mound — they call it Turtle Mountain there. There's DAPLs on one side, and water protectors on the other, and then one white guy just ran into the cold water screaming: "Come on! Everybody follow me! I'll lead you!" And no one followed him. We were all like: "No! It's cold! Stay over there!" So he went over there and shook the DAPLs' hands, and they didn't even arrest him. Then he just ... stayed on the other side.

Looking back, it was kinda funny. Protesting is kind of funny.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

There are so many different walks of life on Earth, though.

A lot of non-Natives are really solid dudes who provide skills and are an asset to have in camp. Two kids from Seattle were staying with my camp, for example, and one was a leather worker. He actually made me a new medicine pouch, which was huge for me and a powerful thing for him to walk away from. He wasn't a pro at his skills, but he was an asset. He was there for a reason, and taking things from this in a positive manner.

I know that when he goes back to Seattle, he's just going to want to come back here to Standing Rock.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

There's a joke around camp that the longer you've been here, the harder it is to tell who's who.

When you first arrive, you can tell who's from which nation. But after a while, people start adapting, exchanging, and engaging with all the other cultures. It's really cool and powerful.

I got really close with some descendants from Hawaii who were here. One night they sang a prayer for us at our camp, a chant, and it really gave me goosebumps. When you're out in the water there, you have to use different intonations and rhythms for sound to travel, so I'd never heard something like that. I was infatuated.

I learned a lot from those new experiences in and of themselves. Stuff like this can snowball and have a positive effect for the camp, and for all of us.

Water protectors use a "home pole" to show where they came from. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

One thing we're all doing is inviting people to camp every day.  

There's always something to do, whether it's chopping wood, emptying the garbage to bring to the deposit place, keeping the camp clean, setting up or breaking down someone's tent or campsite, or even getting water. Now that the water's starting to freeze, it's always a battle trying to get it warm.

Every morning I cook for as many people as I can. Cast-iron skillets, two of 'em, packed with potatoes, eggs, onions, and spinach — just mass amounts of food for people. You're also cooking for all the new people that come to camp, so usually there's a stew on, some sort of corn, so that people can grab a bowl if they need to throughout the day.

A lot of people think they're going to lose weight by going to camp. But Indians love their food — especially fried bread. And there are a lot of fried bread makers here.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

When we leave, we smudge with sage. It cleanses the air and the people. It's purifying.

Right before a big fire hose attack, we were gearing up to leave for Bismarck that night. I didn't know what else was going down — a lot of direct actions kind of remain silent from one another — so I was by the car saging myself, like usual. We were waiting for my friend to leave, and they said, "Go ahead, and we'll leave in five or 10 minutes."

So we hit the road and figured they would follow.

A water protector holds a roll of burning sage for smudging. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

On my way out, we started seeing cop cars driving toward the camp. We turned around to try to go back and see what was going on, but it was blocked. It was hard to drive away from that. I wasn't able to drag anyone away or shield anybody or protect anybody that day. The timing of that really affected me.

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

Our fight is looking up right now. But we want to be a spark, to make this a tipping point for other pipelines to be stopped.

The story doesn't stop in North Dakota.

I don't know what's going to happen now. I can't see the future. But it's a very historic time that we're living in. We're getting this new civil rights movement with Native Americans, after we've been saddling it for so long. A new, strong network is being built. Connections are being made and new family is being found all the time.

Big Camp is basically a communication center, and a spiritual one, that we all carry with us. Now it's going to spiderweb out from there.

How fast will this ripple effect grow? I don't know. Only time will tell. But I'm trying to do everything in my power to expedite the situation.

True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

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Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

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"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

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Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

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"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

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True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.