More

As temperatures drop, pipeline protesters join together to winterize Standing Rock.

Winter is coming at Standing Rock. Are these new teepees the answer?

As temperatures drop, pipeline protesters join together to winterize Standing Rock.

There is more to Standing Rock than protests. Every day is an exercise in peaceful prayer and building community.

In the few short weeks I’ve been at Standing Rock, I’ve witnessed the violence of three major incidents involving police and water protectors. I’ve also witness hundreds of people come together to protect sacred water sources and lands — all the while being under constant surveillance and psychological violence.

Sunset at Standing Rock. Photo by Wendy Carrillo.


The most egregious of incidents occurred the day I arrived, Oct. 27, when authorities raided the 1851 Treaty Camp, the “front lines” of water protectors.

Using pepper spray, noise cannons, rubber bullets, tasers, and batons, police attacked peaceful demonstrators, grandmothers, people in prayer and ceremony. Over 140 were arrested. It was shocking and frightening to arrive to that.

It’s easy to think violence is the only thing happening at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Amid the chaos, there is order.

There are currently three camps at the Standing Rock reservation that make up the resistance working toward halting the pipeline.

The camps — Sacred Stone, Oceti Sakowin, and Rosebud — have thousands of people working toward “winterizing,” the prep work being done for winter.

Soon, the weather is expected to drop below zero and could reach -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Paul Cheyok'ten Wagner — a member of the Saanich First Nations of Vancouver Island and an artist and inventor — is one such person looking ahead. He is designing a contemporary teepee that costs thousands of dollars less than a traditional teepee and uses materials found in any hardware store.

Women make circular teepee tops at a Seattle working party. Photo courtesy of Winter Shelter for Standing Rock Facebook page.

Currently living in Seattle, Wagner, answered the call for Canoe Families to join a spiritual journey down the Missouri River in early September. The event was focused on native unity for the protection of sacred waters and lands threatened by the North Dakota Access Pipeline. That’s when he felt a call to do something to help the water protectors of Standing Rock.

“Climate change is my number one issue,” Wagner says. Having been involved in movements like IdIe No More, which calls on all people to honor indigenous sovereignty and to protect water and land, going to Standing Rock seemed like a natural next step.

Through his campaign called Winter Shelter for Standing Rock, Wagner is hoping he and his crew of volunteers will build at least 40 of these new teepee structures.

Paul Cheyok'ten Wagner climbs a tarpee structure at Standing Rock. Photo courtesy of Winter Shelter for Standing Rock Facebook page.

The teepees, which have been dubbed “tarpees” by Standing Rock locals, use white heavy-duty poly tarp material with anywhere from 8 to 16 poles and a round plywood roof top. Traditional teepees can use 12 to 25 poles cut from lodgepole pine trees, which have to be cut, shaved, and cleaned. Usually, teepees are covered with buffalo skins or canvas — the more traditional, the more expensive. Tarps cut those costs dramatically.

“I’ve always been inventing things,” says Wagner, who experienced the frigid night air after sleeping in a summer tent at Standing Rock. “At first I thought, a cabin. But that would be too expensive; tents wouldn't hold up in the winter and teepees also need poles and canvases and that would raise the costs.”

Slowly, the idea began to form and take shape. What if he used tarp instead of canvas? What if he used wood beams instead of pine poles? What if he added a stove inside with a chimney? How would it hold up on the top? What if he added a circular structure at the top that would hold the poles and the chimney?

A banner hangs just below the tarpee ceiling. Photo by Wendy Carrillo.

As of now, at least 10 additional tarpees have been built at the various camps, each comfortably housing up to 12 people.

Bryan Fabert, a volunteer with the Winter Shelter for Standing Rock campaign, has been busy training others on how to build the structures. There is an urgency to have as many sound winter shelters as possible.

“This has never been done before,” Fabert said while hammering away at some beams at camp. “Every day we’re discovering new things that will improve on the design, especially for insulation and heat.”

The original seven-gallon stoves needed to be watched constantly and were too small to keep wood burning overnight. Because tarp is much lighter than canvas, the warmth of the stove diminishes as people sleep.

But Wagner says he’s already created a new design for a stove. “The original stove is going to be replaced with a 30-gallon barrel stove of my own design with a baffle that will create a very clean burn with little wood, all the while creating more heat.”

One of the new 30-gallon barrel stoves arriving at Standing Rock. Photo by Wendy Carrillo.

The new stoves and the circular tops are set to arrive at Standing Rock via bus from Seattle, alongside a crew of more volunteers.

Danielle Gennetly, who is of Mi’Mack Nation heritage as well as French Canadian and Syrian heritage, was an early supporter of Winter Shelter for Standing Rock and is staying through winter. “I felt called to be here,” she says. “I feel very connected to nature, to mountains and waterfalls; we have to protect these things.”

Gennetly shares her tarpee with female elders and has adorned the space with an altar by the stove, surrounded by sage and cedar and colorful streamers with words like "equality" and "diversity" hanging from the ceiling. She was one of the first to volunteer to build the tarpees and is now busy sorting food donations and creating communal spaces, such as the pantry, a mess hall for dining, and a volunteer space at one of the camps.

“This is sacred land,” Gennetly says of Standing Rock. “We must be prepared to come together and protect it; we cannot do it alone.”

Wagner echoes the same sentiment. “It’s going to take people coming together to protect water, to be partners in this peaceful movement. That’s who we are as human beings. We are protectors of water and these sacred relationships with nature."

The Friday following Thanksgiving, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified Standing Rock that protesters needed to vacate all campgrounds north of the Cannonball River by Dec. 5. A letter suggested the safety of the protesters was the main concern.

“Our tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Dave Archambault II says of the decision.

The notice came as a surprise because the U.S. Army Corps had previously announced more analysis was needed for the Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward. Currently, no final decision has been made on granting an easement to Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the pipeline. An easement would allow Energy Partners to dig underneath the Missouri River.

The fight for clean water is not solely an issue affecting the Standing Rock reservation. A leak could affect millions of Americans who rely on water from the river, as well as wildlife and gaming.

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, crossing Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. The Standing Rock Sioux Nation relies on its water, as do 17 million other Americans downstream.

As winter approaches, water protectors say they are not leaving the camp.

They will need to stay warm and think about new strategies to protect the water and land.

Watch the video below for more on how a tarpee is built:

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
True

In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."