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.

More
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

Most Shared
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family